AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Ailing Agrizzi due back in court over alleged Bosasa corruption — expect a protracted trial
Former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi will finally appear in court after four years to be questioned about his alleged role in the alleged improper R1.8-billion tender awarded by the Department of Correctional Services. Agrizzi has not appeared in court since October 2020 due to a heart attack, which has halted his fraud and corruption trial.
In a recent judgment in April 2023 on his fitness to stand trial, Gauteng high court Judge David Makhoba ordered that Former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi attend his fraud and corruption trial virtually.
The order was issued as a result of an agreement reached between the State and Agrizz’s legal representatives. The parties agreed that Agrizzi was not at fault for not physically attending court based on the medical evidence presented during a four-day hearing to evaluate his competence to stand trial.
Agrizzi and former correctional services commissioner Linda Mti were among others arrested by the Hawks on allegations of corruption in February 2019. Since then, the State has worked tirelessly to get the trial started.
Agrizzi has not been in court since October 2020 after suffering a heart attack on 21 October 2020. He was in intensive care at the Life Fourways Hospital until 7 December 2020.
Taking his health into account and based on evidence presented by two pulmonologists, the court further ordered that Agrizzi, diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, obesity, acute renal failure, and liver dysfunction, would be assisted by a full nursing staff, an ambulance on standby, a full generator for oxygen at his disposal and that he could attend court for two and three hours a day with a 30-minute break for the duration of the trial.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Medical specialist to decide whether Agrizzi is fit to stand trial
The Bosasa matter came to the fore when Agrizzi testified at the Zondo Commission on 23 January 2019, where he gave self-incriminating evidence and testified that he was aware of, and involved in, corruption throughout his time at Bosasa.
The high court ruling now paves the way for the two criminal cases against Bosasa to go ahead. In one matter, Agrizzi is accused of offering gratification to former ANC MP Vincent Smith arising from four contracts worth R1.8-billion awarded by the Department of Correctional Services to Bosasa and its subsidiaries.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Angelo Agrizzi’s loan of over R600,000 to ANC MP Vincent Smith interrogated at State Capture inquiry
He is also — along with co-accused, Andries van Tonder, the former chief financial officer of Bosasa; Mti, the former Correctional Services national commissioner; and Patrick Gillingham, a former Correctional Service employee — named in a second litigation stemming from the allegedly irregular R1.8-billion tender.
The four contracts, awarded between 2004 and 2007, were for catering and training services, the installation of CCTV cameras and perimeter fencing, and the supply of a television system and monitoring equipment.
During the hearing to determine Agrizzi’s fitness to stand trial, the court also heard from neurosurgeon Dr Herman Edeling, who performed a neurological examination on Agrizzi and concluded that he has impaired brain function.
At that point, Judge Makhoba interjected and emphasised that brain injuries are very serious. Makhoba raised the question of whether Agrizzi is neurologically fit to stand trial and why he should hear a trial whereby an accused person is diagnosed by a neurosurgeon as being neurological unfit to stand trial.
The judge made a passing reference to the Criminal Procedure Act, which states that such a person must be sent for observation.
However, Mannie Witz, Agrizzi’s lawyer, stated in his counter-argument that under the given medical circumstances, his client could understand and follow the proceedings — he just needs some time — and that there is no need for his client to be sent for observation.
According to his lawyer, Agrizz’s health has since October 2020 become manageable, reiterating his client is able to attend court proceedings virtually.
“Following the last court appearance, the matter was remanded to a provisional date. The State has given us a signed indictment from the investigative directorate head and some accused have done representations, some requested particulars and others have to get documents disclosure,” Witz said.
Investigating Directorate’s national spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka indicated the State is happy to have an hour or two each day for proceedings to be held while Agrizzi takes regular breaks. At the end of the day, she underlined, the National Prosecuting Authority wants to prosecute him.
The matter is back in court on 20 June. DM