News / South Africa / Crime

Charles Cilliers
Journalist
4 minute read
13 Nov 2019
4:09 pm

Bosasa lays 171 criminal charges against Agrizzi and Co for ‘stolen’ R37m

Charles Cilliers

Gavin Watson's nephew Jared says the company has evidence of alleged fraud committed against it by the very same men who claimed to be blowing the whistle on Bosasa in January.

The application for bail of former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi, right, was dismissed at the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court in Johannesburg on Wednesday. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Facilities management company Bosasa laid criminal charges on Wednesday against, among others, their former chief operating officer, Angelo Agrizzi, and former chief financial officer, Andries van Tonder, both of whom testified against the company earlier this year at the state capture commission.

The charges were laid in person at the Krugersdorp police station by the late Gavin Watson’s nephew Jared Watson, who is representing his uncle as the executor of his estate and, as a chartered accountant, was assisting Gavin with his submission to an SA Reserve Service (Sars) inquiry into his finances and those of several others at Bosasa.

He told The Citizen he was representing the directors and shareholders of Bosasa in their criminal case against the former senior managers. He said that he and the company had conducted a forensic investigation of Bosasa’s finances going back as far as 2012, and they were continuing to collect evidence.

The case, he says, relates primarily to allegations that several companies that were started, owned and/or controlled by Agrizzi and Van Tonder sent invoices to Bosasa over many years for work that was ostensibly performed but for which no actual goods or services could be found, an allegation the company appears confident it can prove.

The company alleges that the two men were able to sign off on all or most financial transactions in Bosasa between the two of them, with little to no oversight, and that they used this freedom to fraudulently pay themselves upwards of R37 million from the company.

“There were primarily four CCs [close corporations] that they established in their names,” said Watson. “They would send invoices for work performed, would sign off on it and tell the accounts department to process the payments.”

He said the descriptions on the invoices were for things like “management fees” or “attending meetings regarding bonds”.

Watson said they had also identified allegedly questionable payments for goods and services to Agrizzi’s wife Debbie and his brother Claudio. “Three companies were in Debbie’s name or Claudio’s,” said Watson.

In all, the 290-page affidavit now with the police is understood to contain 171 separate charges against Agrizzi and/or related parties, which Watson says was grouped according to the kind of alleged crime.

Former Bosasa auditor Peet Venter has also been implicated, primarily in relation to his alleged involvement in a company that he spoke about at the Zondo commission, Miotto Trading and Advisory Holdings, which Bosasa alleges was also used to benefit Venter, Agrizzi and Van Tonder personally by inflating costs, particularly in relation to tax advice.

The companies Agrizzi and the others were allegedly using were later liquidated, according to Bosasa, though details pertaining to them could not be erased.

Asked for his response, Agrizzi told The Citizen: “I found out about this via the media. Isn’t that interesting? And please tell me, if it’s suddenly raised now, how on earth did they wait 30 months to raise the issue? I emphatically deny it. Are they even taken seriously anymore?”

Watson answered that they had only started working on the case after Agrizzi testified in January and that most of the information had come to light while he and his uncle were preparing his Sars submission. Watson also said that since Bosasa was being liquidated, the staff resources available to go through “gigabytes of data and thousands of transactions” had been badly reduced.

“There was only one person left out of 30 at Bosasa,” he said.

However, it’s understood that allegations, or at least suspicions, that Agrizzi had been stealing from Bosasa had already existed prior to his testimony before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Agrizzi laid a defamation charge against Jared Watson this week in relation to a Sowetan article in which Watson was quoted as saying that Agrizzi allegedly stood to gain from Gavin Watson’s death and that the family would suspect Agrizzi in the event it could be proven that foul play had been involved.

Agrizzi referenced this on Wednesday.

“Perhaps it’s a fightback because I summonsed Jarod [sic] Watson – or because I assisted BEE companies that the Watsons stole from to recover well over R200 million.”

Watson responded to this by saying that there was no way he could have put together a criminal case of this magnitude over just a few days.

Update: The headline originally said R36 million. The actual amount is R37.6 million.

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