Nearly a decade after prosecutors were first asked to look into charging the Bosasa bosses for paying bribes for tenders, the matter will finally receive the attention of the NPA’s newest top guns.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson for the Gauteng region, Phindi Mjonondwane, confirmed to News24 that the newly establishing investigative directorate, headed by advocate Hermione Cronje, had taken over the Bosasa matter.
The Asset Forfeiture Unit, now headed by advocate Willie Hofmeyr, was also taking a look at the evidence in the docket, Mjonondwane said.
This brings the total number of law enforcement agencies and judicial bodies probing Bosasa to six, including the Hawks, the Zondo commission into state capture, the South African Revenue Service and the Special Investigating Unit.
On Thursday, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane took to social media, again, to announce that a probe into a R500 000 donation by Bosasa boss Gavin Watson to the presidential campaign of Cyril Ramaphosa was “at an advanced stage”.
Mkhwebane said the report, however, was not yet finalised.
News24 previously deconstructed the payment and circumstances that led to the complaint here.
Hofmeyr, who was reappointed to head up the AFU in April this year, was the head of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) during that unit’s investigation of Bosasa which ended in 2009.
The Bosasa SIU investigation looked into allegations of bribes paid to Department of Correctional Services officials surrounding four multimillion-rand tenders awarded between 2004 and 2006.
The SIU report was handed to the NPA in early 2010, News24 previously reported, but no action was taken, allegedly as a result of bribes paid to former NPA top brass Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi.
The pair have denied ever accepting bribes to delay the case, but a secret recording of Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson bragging how he would lobby former president Jacob Zuma to appoint a new national director of public prosecutions in 2015, may put Jiba’s denials to bed.
This week, News24 revealed that Watson was coming under further pressure from the South African Revenue Service, which had convened a tax inquiry to look into allegations that he hid assets and funds from the taxman.
In February 2019, former Bosasa bosses turned whistleblowers – Angelo Agrizzi, Andries van Tonder and Frans Vorster – were hauled before the Pretoria Serious Commercial Crimes Court and charged in connection with the findings contained in the SIU report.
Former correctional services commissioner Linda Mti and former correctional services chief financial officer Patrick Gillingham were also charged.
But the net seems to be closing on other Bosasa bosses, who were revealed to have been involved in bribery and tender fraud, through testimony before the Zondo commission.
The NPA’s new investigative directorate has been described as a resuscitation of the Scorpions, a highly effective investigations unit that had full-time prosecutorial support through dedicated prosecutors.
The case against Agrizzi and his co-accused is scheduled to return to court on July 5, but was postponed to allow time for the Supreme Court of Appeal to hear an appeal by liquidators who are seeking to overturn a Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg order that reversed the placing of Bosasa under voluntary liquidation.
A date is yet to be set for the SCA to hear the matter.
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