Bosasa piled up cash in vault for ‘chicken order’ bribes: Agrizzi
Secret video shows big boss counting cash as former exec describes how bribes were used to 'control' people and hush money paid to keep staff quiet
The Zondo commission ventured into the belly of the beast of illicit operations at the controversial Bosasa empire, with video evidence showing wads of cash totalling R1m being counted for the payment of bribes.
The second day of explosive testimony by former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi focused on a six-minute video secretly recorded inside a vault of the company’s chief executive, Gavin Watson.
The video, recorded in 2017 on a cellphone by Bosasa’s chief financial officer, Andries van Tonder, shows piles of R100 notes stacked on Watson’s desk. Watson is then heard counting the money in bundles of R100,000 totalling R1m.
Agrizzi, an employee at the company from 1999 to 2016, told Judge Raymond Zondo that the discussion between Watson and Van Tonder in the video related to the payment of a bribe to former correctional services CFO Patrick Gillingham.
He said the payment of bribes to those who secured contracts for Bosasa, which has been rebranded African Global Operations, and hush money to staff were made on a monthly basis.
On Wednesday, Agrizzi testified that Bosasa paid between R4m and R6m a month on bribes.
On Thursday, Agrizzi told how millions of rand were stored in the vault and replenished almost weekly because of the number of bribes paid.
“What is the order of chicken today?” was code for the amount of money that had to be restocked. “My hands are pretty bruised from all the years of dropping money in the drop safe,” Agrizzi said.
Every single contract Bosasa had with the government was “tainted with bribes and corruption”, Agrizzi said. When asked by Zondo if there were any legitimate contracts, Agrizzi said that while all may not have been secured through corrupt means, once they were awarded “someone had to be looked after”.
“You don’t entrap them for life if you pay them once off ... but once you start paying people bribes on a monthly basis for as long as they are there, you control them 100%,” he said.
He related how he and other members of staff received “bonuses” to keep silent about corruption at the company.
“It kind of buys loyalty, you feel important, you caught up in a cult,” said Agrizzi. “Bribery is a trap ... because you raise your standard of living when you get it. As soon as you start complaining about it, it gets taken away.”
He told of the culture of fear and intimidation against those who wanted to stop participating in corrupt practices.
“People would be disposed of ... if you knew too much,” he said, saying there was a “dustbin” for people.
Asked by Zondo to explain what this meant, Agrizzi said: “If you didn’t do what was told to you, you became a problem. You had to leave, salaries were cut. You were told ‘you are white male, you won’t find a job anywhere’.”
He also testified that Watson once called him to a meeting at the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton with former controversial cop Killer Ximba. He said he was shown a .45 Colt pistol in Ximba’s bag.
Asked by Zondo why he had asked Van Tonder to make the video, Agrizzi said he had to come to the state capture inquiry with solid evidence. He said Watson never signed anything so it was difficult to pin him down for his illicit activities.
“I wanted to tell the country how easy it is to fall into this trap,” said Agrizzi.
The inquiry adjourned after protracted delay following the lunch break owing to a “security situation”. Earlier, Agrizzi raised a concern about security access at the commission, because, he said, he had seen a Bosasa employee, Solomon Segale, standing with a group of policemen.
He said Segale was a former cop and claimed he had used an expired SAPS card to gain access.
Zondo said necessary measures had to be taken to ensure those who came to the commission were safe.
Agrizzi’s testimony will continue on Friday.