JOHANNESBURG, January 17- Former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi on Thursday said that his former employer was involved in a grand scheme of paying bribes to senior government officials in order to win tenders to the point that every contract was tainted with bribes.
“Every single contract was tainted with bribes and corruption. I wouldn’t say that they were all awarded because of corruption. But once they were awarded, corruption crept in because someone had to be taken care of,” Agrizzi said.
Continuing with his testimony at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State capture, Agrizzi said money was paid to Patrick Gillingham, a correctional services department official who was involved in the awarding of contracts.
He said that Bosasa had a number of vaults at its premises where it stored millions in hard cash which was used to pay bribes, and the location where cash would exchange hands was usually a petrol station near the Lanseria airport.
Agrizzi admitted that he was complicit in corrupt activities that allegedly took place at Bosasa, including the paying of bribes because he was also paid huge sums of money to buy his silence. But he said that at some point he became disillusioned with this arrangement because he did not agree with such business practices in the first place by Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson.
Agrizzi said there were certain words like “stuff” that were synonymous with money at Bosasa, and Watson would easily say “here is your stuff” when he gave them money just to keep them happy.
“We were given money to buy out loyalty. It makes you feel important, but you’re caught up in the cult. You knew all these criminal activities, and you are complicit. But it’s a trap. You raised your standard of leaving because of this ‘monopoly money’, and by the time you start complaining about it, it has taken you away. If you pay people bribes every month you entrap them and you can control them for life,” Agrizzi said.
“I once asked Mr Watson why he called the bribe money monopoly money. Mr Watson replied that they wanted the monopoly on business, they wanted to monopolise tenders, and it was playing money. You are playing with people. It was a frequent mention by Mr Watson in the company. It was nothing. Cash was nothing.”
Agrizzi told the commission that he was concerned about threats on his life after he spotted an individual he had previously worked with at the venue of the inquiry into state capture where he is testifying.
Agrizzi has allegedly received death threats since he blew the whistle on corrupt activities at Bosasa and his appearance before the state capture commission presided over by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo was kept under wraps until the last minute as a result.
“Chair, about four years ago I employed a gentleman who was in the police, either a colonel or a captain, Solomon Segale. This gentleman was subsequently made director at one of the companies within Bosasa,” Agrizzi told the commission.
“I didn’t want to say anything until I have verified, but when I went to the lunch break yesterday Mr Segale was standing outside with a group of policemen. They were in their uniforms but he was in plainclothes. After investigations, I have had it confirmed that he slipped in with his old police ID card.”
Evidence leader Advocate Paul Pretorius said the matter of how Segale had gained access to the venue was being investigated. Justice Zondo ordered security to be beefed up and a probe into how an expired police card was used to gain access.
Agrizzi showed the commission probing state capture a video in which businessman Gavin Watson counted money allegedly used to pay a bribe to secure a R14 million a month contract from the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA).
Continuing his testimony before the commission presided over by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, Agrizzi stuck to his guns that Watson, the Bosasa chief executive, used his political ties and bribed state officials to win a lucrative catering, facilities management and security contract for his company at various government institutions.
Agrizzi had on Wednesday told the inquiry that when Bosasa was awarded a five-year contract by ACSA to guard the multi-story parkade at OR Tambo International Airport in 2001, he would take stacks of cash to the airport to make payments to individuals at ACSA in bags similar to police evidence bags.
He said Bosasa, now trading as African Global Operations, spent between R4 million and R6 million per month to bribe officials to score government contracts worth more than R10 billion.
In the six-minute long video shown on Thursday, Watson is seen with his former business partner Johannes Gumede and executive director Papa Leshabane apparently counting cash inside a walk-in vault at Bosasa offices where Agrizzi said confidential documents were also stored.
Agrizzi said there were two cash bags full of money on the table, although it was not distinguishable on the video that the bags contained money.
The video shows a man Agrizzi identified as chief financial officer Andries van Tonder taking out a box of money from the company secretary’s vault while the camera was in his left hand pocket.
Agrizzi said only Watson, Gumede, Leshabane and van Tonder were in the room. Leshabane is seen speaking on the phone and later leaving the ‘vault’ with the box of cash.
Agrizzi said Gumede, heard speaking on the recording, had asked for an extra R10,000 to be used for bribes.
Watson also had a drop-in safe others also used to stash cash if he was not in the office, Agrizzi said.
“My hands are pretty bruised from dropping money into the drop safe,” he told the commission.
Bosasa has been implicated in corruption, doing favours for, and giving donations to influential politicians in return for government tenders.
Evidence leader Advocate Paul Pretorius said those implicated in Agrizzi’s testimony had been alerted and would have an opportunity to respond. (ANA)