How the Hawks thwarted Angelo Agrizzi's escape plan
Johannesburg – Former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi got himself into trouble with the Hawks due to his planned trip to Italy in July, but Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo saved the situation by blocking the alleged escape.
This was the damning evidence heard against Agrizzi when he appeared in the Palm Ridge Specialised Commercial Crimes on Wednesday charged with corruption.
Agrizzi stood accused along with ANC parliamentarian and former chairperson of the portfolio committee on correctional services Vincent Smith.
Charges against Smith were postponed until December 3 but Agrizzi was remanded for allegedly planning to flee to Italy and avoid prosecution on other multiple counts of fraud, corruption, money laundering and conspiracy to commit fraud and corruption.
Agrizzi’s alleged plot to flee to Italy and live a life of luxury beyond the borders of South Africa is contained in the affidavit of Lieutenant-Colonel Bernadus Lazarus - presented in court this week.
In his affidavit, Lieutenant-Colonel Lazarus said he became aware of the planned escape after Agrizzi informed him of his intention to travel in July.
At the time of Agrizzi's request, the court heard, Lazarus was in possession of Agrizzi’s South African passport as part of his bail condition for an unrelated charge of fraud and corruption worth R1.8 billion.
Agrizzi was charged with multiple counts of fraud and corruption with four others including former National Correctional Services Commissioner Linda Mti in February last year.
Lazarus said what raised his alarm was that Agrizzi’s did not ask for his SA passport but insisted on undertaking his trip. The court heard the two things saved the trip - one of them being Judge Zondo.
The Judge, according to evidence in court, had served Agrizzi with a summons to be around when former Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane appears before the commission to rebut allegations that she too benefited financially from Bosasa.
The Hawks, the court heard, were satisfied that the summons prevented Agrizzi’s from undertaking his trip. The other reasons presented was that South Africa was still under Covid-19 level 3 which prevented any international trips.
The court heard that the planned trip emboldened the Hawks’ investigations that Agrizzi wanted to flee the country.
In his affidavit, Lazarus said as Agrizzi made his request, his team was already investigating leads that Agrizzi was shipping millions to offshore accounts and had already bought a luxury house and vehicle in Italy.
Adding to Agrizzi’s trouble - the Hawks established that he had been defaulting on his R13.5m bond and was owing a local bank R8.1m
In his affidavit, Lazarus said the huge defaults convinced them about the planned escape because Agrizzi was allegedly prioritising his offshore accounts over his fixed assets in South Africa.
Lazarus, in his affidavit, also wrote that Agrizzi failed to disclose his foreign investments during his February 2019 bail application in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.
Agrizzi also failed to make a similar declaration in court on Wednesday which prompted Magistrate Phillip Venter to turn down his application for bail.
Agrizzi’s defence counsel Mannie Witz tried to persuade the Magistrate that his client had the approval of the SA Reserve Bank to invest in offshore accounts but the court had none of it.
Magistrate Venter, in his ruling, said he did not want to allow him to go and behave like the Guptas who are allegedly refusing to be extradited to SA to face criminal charges against them.
Not even an oxygen pump he carried in court, managed to persuade the court to rule in his favour. Venter said there were medical facilities in correctional services which could deal with his condition but the opposite turned out to be true.
On Thursday, a day after he was denied bail, Agrizzi had to be rushed to an ‘external hospital” to receive treatment including testing for Covid-19.
On Friday, he failed to appear in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court along with (DCS) Commissioner, Linda Mti; former DCS Chief Financial Officer, Patrick Gillingham and former Bosasa chief financial officer, Andries Van Tonder.
Investigating Directorate spokesperson Sindisiwe Twala said The case was postponed in Agrizzi’s absence saying the court was notified that he has been admitted to the hospital.
They all face charges of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, corruption, and money laundering. Charges are in connection with four tenders awarded to Bosasa and its subsidiaries valued at over R1.8 billion, between August 2004 up to 2007.
Contracts were for the rendering of catering and training services, installation of CCTV cameras, perimeter fencing and the supply of television systems, and monitoring equipment.
In his bail application, Agrizzi told the court that his comorbidities will make him more prone to contract Covid-19 in jail but tests results on Friday revealed that he had tested negative.
Agrizzi is due to lodge another fight to be released on bail in the South Gauteng High Court in Joburg, next week.