Bosasa scandal 1: Big boss in k-word tirade

An audio recording, in which prominent Johannesburg businessman Angelo Agrizzi allegedly refers to his former black business partners repeatedly with the k-word, has emerged amid a fallout with them.

City Press has learnt the audio recording is at the centre of a crimen injuria case, opened by Agrizzi's former colleagues, Johannes Gumede and Papa Leshabane, at Douglasdale police station recently.

Police confirmed a case of crimen injuria was being investigated.

Agrizzi was previously a partner with Gumede and Leshabane at the company formerly known as Bosasa, now African Global Operations (AGO).

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In the voice recording, which City Press has a copy of, the voice of a male, believed to be Agrizzi, can be heard making reference to "k****rs" several times. The man questions why there was a need in the company for "Joe", seemingly referring to Gumede, and "Papa", referring to Leshabane.

"What you need Papa for? ... You don't need Joe ... what you need him for? ... What I'm saying to you [is] what I can't understand is how on earth your father listens to Papa and Joe," said the voice on the audio.

It further stated: "Those k****rs ... I'm telling you they are k****rs alright because they are screwing your father with information that he shouldn't listen to ..."

The speaker then seems to be convincing the Watsons – the children of Bosasa's chief executive officer (CEO), Gavin Watson – to remove them from the company.

In another section of the recording, he tells the Watsons how much he had done for their father as the business was being built. "Those k****s have done nothing for your father. What is it that they are holding over his head? What is it?"

He threatens to "go personally to that company [AGO]" to deal with his former partners.

"I will f*ck each of those k****rs out there ... I'm telling you now I will...," he says.

At another point, referring to Leshabane, he says: "That k****r just needs a good hiding..."

Statements

City Press has also seen statements, made under oath by Gumede and Leshabane, alleging that Agrizzi had made derogatory remarks against them at a meeting at his residence with Watson's children on August 24.

City Press has verified the authenticity of the recording.

In his sworn statement to the police, Gumede said he had listened to the recordings of the conversation and had identified Agrizzi's voice because he had worked with him for many years.

"Agrizzi repeatedly referred to me and [my other] African colleagues at African Global Operations (Pty) Limited as a k****r in a derogatory manner intentionally intended to seriously violate my dignity," said Gumede.

He said the "derogatory utterances by Agrizzi were mechanically recorded using a mobile ... and a duplication of the audio is to be handed to the South African police as evidence".

He added: "Agrizzi had no permission to violate my dignity and, as such, his conduct was unlawful and constituted the common-law crime of crimen injuria."

In his statement, made under oath, Leshabane shared similar information, saying he had listened to the recordings of the conversation between Agrizzi and the Watsons, and identified his voice as "I've worked with him for many years".

Denial

But Agrizzi denied the allegations on Saturday.

Agrizzi is a former chief operations officer at Bosasa, which now trades under the name African Global Operations (Pty) Limited. City Press understands that he separated with his Bosasa partners after differences with them.

Agrizzi has now threatened to dish up dirt on "state capture" tactics conducted by Bosasa while he was there.

Bosasa has been at the centre of several controversies, the primary one being allegations that it paid bribes to secure department of correctional services contracts worth hundreds of millions of rands.

Last month, Agrizzi made startling revelations when he threatened to blow the whistle on racketeering, corruption and money laundering that he claimed he had been aware of for over 18 years, while he was in the employ of the company.

He is now involved in various lucrative businesses in the property sector, as well as in vehicle fleet management, IT infrastructure design, security technology and healthcare. A fishing fanatic and Ferrari enthusiast, his personal website is replete with pictures of him with his red sports vehicles and of him attending Ferrari events.

Agrizzi, who was born in Italy, was named Italian Businessman of the Year in 2014.

Last month, News24 reported that he sent a press statement to media houses and Bosasa CEO Watson in which he threatened to expose "high-level people, government officials as well as public office bearers currently in government positions, parastatals and state-owned enterprises".

READ: Bosasa executive to blow the whistle on corruption

News24 reported at the time that the Bosasa group had been implicated in capturing key state functions at the department of correctional services during the tenure of former prisons boss Linda Mti. The company has pocketed billions of rands from providing catering, security and fencing services to the country's prisons.

A report by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) found in 2008 that Bosasa had bribed Mti, former correctional services finance chief Patrick Gillingham and other departmental officials.

Although the report was handed to the National Prosecuting Authority in 2009, no criminal prosecution has followed the publication of the SIU report, and Bosasa has continued to score government work from the departments of justice and home affairs, as well as Airports Company SA.

The company's multimillion-rand catering tender was extended during the term of former prisons boss Tom Moyane.

Agrizzi was at the heart of the company's dealings with government, working as Watson's close confidante for more than a decade, News24 reported at the time.

'Far-reaching consequences'

He told City Press via email on Saturday: "As you are no doubt aware, there is currently a process that I am undertaking regarding a Protected Disclosures Act, that has far-reaching consequences in terms of the Watsons.

"So, it does not surprise me that allegations of this nature have been promulgated by the Watsons, who have inundated me for the past week to not disclose the facts to the authorities [sic].

"You will have noted that the matter at hand has been reported on by News24 regarding the corruption, so it's strange that I am not even aware of the charges raised. But I will refer the matter to [legal practitioners] Mr Gerhard Wagenaar and Barry Roux to attend to."

Agrizzi said it was also strange that "the very same Johannes Gumede raised the matter, pursuant to making numerous threats to myself".

He said the Watson children asked to meet with him, and he obliged. "An offer was made by the Watsons to myself to procure my silence, which I refused. Hence, I understand that, given the seriousness of the disclosures made by myself in the correct forum such as the commission of state capture, the Watsons will no doubt produce anything possible (manufactured) to avert the attention.

"I can assure you I know nothing of the despicable accusations and deny the allegations made," Agrizzi said.