South Africa

DAYS OF ZONDO

Bosasa bought top-secret NPA documents from Jiba and Mrwebi, claims Agrizzi

Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi continues with his testimony at commission of inquiry into state capture, chaired by chief justice Raymond Zondo on January 23, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Agrizzi revealed that, Bosasa deleted 40 000 documents implicating the company and its executives in corruption from its servers days before investigators from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) could access them. (Photo by Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla)

Former Bosasa chief operating officer, Angelo Agrizzi, has named suspended Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba, and special director, Lawrence Mrwebi as part of a trio allegedly paid off by the controversial company – but he told the State Capture inquiry that he has no physical evidence of cash handovers to them, relying only on what Linda Mti, a former Correctional Services Commissioner on their payroll, had allegedly told him.

Three or four years after Linda Mti resigned, under a cloud, as Correctional Services Commissioner, he allegedly helped Bosasa to buy favour within the upper echelons of the National Prosecuting Authority at R130,000 a month.

Mti, the State Capture inquiry heard on Thursday morning, allegedly continued to be on the payroll of the facilities management company until at least 2016, and has been implicated extensively by former Bosasa chief operating officer, Angelo Agrizzi who is currently testifying.

Agrizzi claims to have a recording of a meeting between Bosasa CEO, Gavin Watson, himself and Mti where Mti allegedly suggested that they “sort out” certain people in the NPA.

He said Mti later identified suspended Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba, special director, Lawrence Mrwebi and a PA, Jackie Lephinka, as the team.

Jiba and Mrwebi are currently subject to an inquiry, chaired by former Constitutional Court judge, Yvonne Mokgoro, into their fitness to hold office.

Mti, Agrizzi testified, allegedly claimed that he met the NPA team weekly and had developed code names for each of them.

He later delivered a long list of internal NPA documents and other information that often proved reliable and which was at times used by Bosasa in its legal fight-back against ongoing corruption investigations.

He testified to an arrangement whereby cash would be handed to Mti who would then allegedly disburse specified amounts to Jiba (R100,000 a month), Mrwebi (R10,000 a month) and Lephinka, R20,000.

Agrizzi says he was never present when Mti supposedly dished out cash them.

Asked by Justice Zondo why the PA was getting more than Mrwebi who held a senior position, Agrizzi said this was because Lephinka was more “active”.

During feedback briefings, Agrizzi said Mrwebi would apparently never be named as having been in a meeting as Mti would refer only to meetings with the “ladies” – allegedly Jiba and Lephinka.

We would get two lots of updates from Mti and (it) was always accurate.”

Patrick Gillingham – a former Correctional Services CFO who was working with Bosasa – allegedly didn’t like the arrangement involving the NPA but Agrizzi says he was later instructed by Watson to drop extra cash to Mti for delivery to the NPA group nonetheless.

Once the system was kicked into touch, Watson allegedly told him that he had already packed security bags for Jiba, Mrwebi and Lephinka and handed those along with a regular monthly drop off for others, to Mti.

I gave a plastic haversack with the bags of cash to Mti and it included Mti’s own standard R65,000 payment. This was years after Mti had left Correctional Services.”

Agrizzi told the Commission that, based on the time-frame of the initial meeting and the subsequent arrangements for payments, the alleged bribes would date back to around 2010.

As far as he knows, the payments continued until as recently as December 2016 when Agrizzi says he refused to hand cash over to Mti for distribution.

Bosasa clinched just over R1-billion in deals from the Department of Correctional Services with the help of two long-term and expensive allies – former Commissioner, Linda Mti and the department’s then Chief Financial Officer, Patrick Gillingham.

But the murky deals were an albatross – they had the Special Investigating Unit on their backs and were allegedly paying out huge bribes for protection that was not necessarily putting an end to it.

Their company was being investigated over four controversial deals, including by the Special Investigating Unit which had found serious evidence of corruption. The SIU also recommended civil recovery efforts, disciplinary action against Correctional Services staff involved and for the National Prosecuting Authority to initiate prosecutions.

He testified that the purpose of the payments to the NPA team was allegedly to help Bosasa to extract information about the investigations and also for them to allegedly assist the company to block the process.

Agrizzi testified that he kept the documents “for safekeeping” over the years and had stashed them in storage.

Asked if these payments produced results, Agrizzi says: “Oh most definitely.”

Over a period of time, Mti allegedly supplied him or CEO, Gavin Watson, with documents suggesting that Bosasa had indeed succeeded in procuring assistance from within the NPA.

On this front too, Agrizzi has seemingly never physically witnessed a hand-over of the documents from either Jiba, Mrwebi or Lephinka.

Jiba previously told News24 that she never accepted cash bribes and had never met Mti.

Agrizzi testified that the information given to Bosasa would sometimes be oral, copies of secret documents and minutes of meetings.

Agrizzi said the document list shows they were “highly confidential” and secret and included affidavits, notes and progress reports dated between July 2009 and August 2013 – these were submitted to the Commission as annexures.

Among Agrizzi’s list of documents allegedly bought in this manner were records titled “Draft Charge Sheet: POC Gillingham dated April 30 2013,” “Proposed Racketeering Memorandum (marked CONFIDENTIAL DOCUMENT)” and a “Progress Report on the Bosasa investigation”.

One document, labelled as “Minutes (NPA/Extended Ministerial Meeting) dated 9 March 2010. The Secretary of the meeting is listed as J. Lephinka. The information contained in here relates to a briefing to then justice minister, Jeff Radebe by then NPA head, Advocate Menzi Simelane.

It stated among other things, that the NPA didn’t believe that the SIU report would stand up in any court and a reference to a “political vendetta”.

In many of the other documents, Bosasa would allegedly be given details of witness statements (planned or in hand), information about the validity of subpoenas and internal communication that demonstrated strife within the NPA about the status or prospects of a Bosasa prosecution.

This information was extremely valuable to Bosasa and Agrizzi told the Commission that the company would sometimes share it with their legal team in determining its legal strategy in the ongoing efforts to get out of the mess.

The hearing continues. DM

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