Fact-checked – Vincent Smith's statement on alleged Bosasa corruption

Top ANC MP Vincent Smith has released a statement following News24's report over the weekend detailing R671 000 in cash payments by Bosasa to a company of which Smith is the sole director, Euro Blitz 48.

READ MORE: Top ANC MP paid by Bosasa 

Here is Smith's statement, with our analysis beneath each line.

"In light of the allegations that were made in the media over the past weekend, I have since consulted with the leadership of the ANC in caucus. We are all in agreement that I am obliged to respond.

"I confirm having entered into an agreement for a personal loan with Mr A Agrizzi which is repayable by me. This loan was processed to me in two separate payments; an amount of R220 000 in 2015; and R395 000 in 2016. The loan was for the university tuition fees of my daughter in year one (2015) and year two (2016)."

Angelo Agrizzi has denied that any loan agreement exists between himself and Smith.

Furthermore, the payments to Smith were as follows:

R276 667.90, July 14, 2015: A cash deposit by Bosasa finance employee Jacques Van Zyl into the FNB bank account of Euro Blitz 48. Van Zyl confirmed he made the deposit on the instruction of Agrizzi.

R395 076.00, August 5, 2016: An EFT by attorney Christo van Wyk from funds held in a trust account for Bosasa Operations to the same Euro Blitz account. Agrizzi again gave the instruction for payment to be effected. Smith showed News24 a bank statement for the account – the deposit reference for this payment was "car accident settlement".

An email instructing Van Wyk to make the payment was cc'd to Bosasa chief financial officer (CFO) Andries van Tonder and another Bosasa employee, Carlos Bonifacio.

Agrizzi addresses a second email to his colleagues immediately thereafter, in which he states, "for a specific consultant we cannot pay cash".

Agrizzi is on record stating that he was following the instructions of Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson. Watson has denied this.

But the knowledge of the Bosasa CFO of the payment supports Agrizzi's version.

Smith told News24 that he had agreed to repay Agrizzi in 2023 when an investment he holds through Euro Blitz 48 matures and pays dividends.

There is no loan agreement document he explained, as it was a "gentleman's agreement".

"I deny any further assistance, financial or otherwise, including the installation of CCTV cameras at my home from him or any other person or company. The cameras that are at my home were paid for by myself."

News24 has seen a signed affidavit by a former Bosasa employee in which he confirms he was instructed by Watson to install the CCTV system and electric fencing at Smith’s home.

The former employee cannot be named for his own safety.

"I can attest hereto that all the aforementioned systems were paid for by the Bosasa Group. Accounts would be opened as cash accounts, and I would receive cash from Van Zyl and Agrizzi as the company did not want to reflect it on the books," the affidavit reads.

News24 observed the electric fencing at Smith's home, but it bore no visible branding.

Crucially, Bosasa does not offer small-scale services as allegedly provided to Smith to the general public.

Smith confirmed that he had asked Agrizzi to assist him in upgrading the system at his home, but claims he carried the costs.

Bosasa has confirmed its employees were dispatched to Smith's residence to assess his existing system and provide "advice on possible upgrades".

This in itself points to an untoward relationship between Smith and a company he knew to possibly be corrupt.

"My sole directorship of Euro Blitz 48, a company through which the loan was processed, is fully declared in the register of members interest and this has been the case since the acquisition of the company."

News24 has no reason to doubt that Smith has declared the company. However, Smith maintained the company was dormant when first contacted last week over the payments.

When confronted with the evidence on Saturday, he confirmed the payments and then explained that it was a loan from Agrizzi.

There was no mention of any loan until News24 sat with Smith at his home on Saturday, September 1, 2018.

"I am in total support of being held accountable and I therefore welcome any investigation into my personal loan transaction. I will fully participate in the parliamentary process led by the ethics committee; a process which I have no doubt will absolve me completely."

Smith has failed to produce any documentation supporting his assertion that he has a loan agreement with Agrizzi, and Agrizzi has denied such an agreement exists, verbal or otherwise.

Agrizzi's version is supported by the fact that the funds used to pay Smith were undoubtedly Bosasa's. Three other Bosasa employees were aware of the payments at the time they were made.

"I am also going to present myself to the ANC integrity commission at their earliest convenience in the interest of being held accountable by my own organisation."

The commission should be asking Smith why he would approach Agrizzi, whom he knew worked for Bosasa, after he had served on committees that investigated Bosasa's conduct.

Smith confirmed to News24 that he knew Agrizzi and Watson. He referred to Agrizzi as "his brother".

This in itself is an exceptionally worrying concession – why was Smith maintaining any sort of relationship with individuals whom we knew to be possibly corrupt?

"I have also made a request to the chief whip and leadership of the ANC caucus that I be allowed to step aside from chairing any parliamentary committee until the ethics committee process is finalised.

"I therefore urge the parliamentary ethics committee to speedily process this matter in order for me to clear my name as soon as possible.

"On conclusion of the parliamentary ethics committee process, I am more than willing to answer any further questions that South Africans or the media might have."

Smith was remarkably forthcoming with information relating to the transactions, confirming payments put to him by News24.

Where the difference lies, fundamentally, is in the reasons for the transfer of funds.

Read the full statement below:

In light of the allegations that were made in the media over the past weekend, I have since consulted with the leadership of the ANC in Caucus. We are all in agreement that I am obliged to respond.

I confirm having entered into an agreement for a personal loan with Mr A. Agrizzi which is repayable by me. This loan was processed to me in two separate payments; an amount of R220 000 in 2015; and R395 000 in 2016. The loan was for the university tuition fees of my daughter in year one (2015) and year 2 (2016).

I deny any further assistance, financial or otherwise, including the installation of CCTV cameras at my home from him or any other person or company. The cameras that are at my home were paid for by myself.

My sole directorship of Euro Blitz 48, a company through which the loan was processed, is fully declared in the register of members interest and this has been the case since the acquisition of the company.

I am in total support of being held accountable and I therefore welcome any investigation into my personal loan transaction. I will fully participate in the parliamentary process led by the Ethics Committee; a process which I have no doubt will absolve me completely.

I am also going to present myself to the ANC Integrity Commission at their earliest convenience in the interest of being held accountable by my own organisation.

I have also made a request to the Chief Whip and leadership of the ANC Caucus that I be allowed to step aside from chairing any parliamentary committee until the Ethics Committee process is finalised.

I therefore urge the Parliamentary Ethics Committee to speedily process this matter in order for me to clear my name as soon as possible.

On conclusion of the Parliamentary Ethics Committee process, I am more than willing to answer any further questions that South Africans or the media might have.

Ends.
Vincent Smith, MP.