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For some time, chartered accountant Jared Watson had been working with his uncle, the late Gavin Watson of Bosasa fame, on a submission for a confidential SARS tax inquiry. They were together on Sunday evening and were to meet the next morning to drive together to put the final touches onto the 400 pages of documents with attorneys in Pretoria. Gavin Watson was due to re-appear before the inquiry today – but was found dead in a crashed car near the OR Tambo airport at 5am on Monday morning. In this riveting interview on this week’s Rational Radio show, Jared speaks of his uncle’s death and the Bosasa saga, and dismisses a Times Live report quoting an unnamed source at SARS that Gavin Watson had spirited R500m into a Guernsey trust account: “I looked after Gavin’s financial affairs so if he did something like that, I would have known about it. If such money does exist, whoever finds it is welcome to keep it.” – Alec Hogg
It’s a warm welcome to Jared Watson, Jared thanks for joining us. The wound is very raw from the passing of your Uncle Gavin. Just to go back a little – before we get into the discussion around the reason we met when I came across to interview your father Valence Watson, the gossip mongers say that all the Watson’s, yourself included, lived off Bosasa, just maybe put the record straight there. Did you draw a salary from Bosasa?
No, the rumours are not true at all. We, as an immediate family are not connected to Bosasa in any way other than a familial relationship with my uncle who was the CEO of the company – his daughter was an employee of the company. Beyond that we had no business relationship with the company and I didn’t draw a salary, neither did my father or my brothers. So the accusation of it being this pool of funds for the family is absolutely nonsense.
So what do you do for a living?
I’m employed by a company that speculates in property and we’re looking at a potential energy project. I’m by trade a chartered accountant, that’s my educational background. So generally I’m in a financial and accounting position.
You’re a chartered accountant, you know the numbers, did you help Gavin at all with his numbers?
Yeah. So what’s happened with the whole state capture inquiry, all our names have been thrown into the mud, and given my background and experience I offered to assist Gavin in any way that I could and he asked if I could help do a forensic audit on accusations that were being made about himself, about his business. So recently, in that regard I’ve been trying to help in whatever way I can. That is only recently as a result of these allegations that have been raised. I have no historical relationship with the business beyond my uncle being the ex-CEO of the company.
Are you a close family? Did you know him well?
Yes. I mean we’re all very close. We’ve grown up together. He’s my dad’s oldest brother. I think everyone who knows us knows that we’re an incredibly close family. All holidays were spent together, we would see each other regularly. Even the last few years, when I’ve been in Johannesburg, he would come around to the house every weekend. Our closest friends are family members and that’s how we’ve always been as a family.
And when last did you see Gavin?
I actually saw him the night before his passing, he actually left my home at around 8pm. I was due to see him the following morning anytime between 7:30 or 8:30, we were going to be driving to Pretoria together to see our attorneys in preparation for the following day when Gavin was due to appear at a tax enquiry. When I didn’t hear from him the following morning I made some phone calls – it was very strange that he hadn’t gotten back to me and then we realised he had passed a few hours before that.
What was his mood like when he left you on Sunday night?
Very good. We had a wonderful weekend. It was my daughter’s birthday on Saturday and on family pictures, everyone’s had a great time – it was an incredible birthday. Everyone had a lot of fun. We prayed together over the weekend. It was my wife’s baby shower, we’re expecting another child and all the men were over here at my place. We spent some time together as a family as we always do on the weekends. When he left in the evening he was very jovial. He was well-prepared for his inquiry and I didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary. It was a normal Sunday for us.
You say a tax inquiry. Elaborate?
I can’t say specifically when the date was, but a few months ago on the strength of the accusations that were raised in the State Capture inquiry – SARS had to logically investigate the accusations and a tax inquiry was called. Gavin had already appeared before and he was due to appear again yesterday – today sorry. He was due to appear again, it’s a normal formality I believe, they have to give their evidence. They’re asked questions and they have to give their answers truthfully and it was nothing more than that. We had prepared a 400-page file of all evidence supporting everything that he had to say and that was due to be submitted. We believed this would have explained, or cleared up his name. I’ve shared much of this with yourself which you’re aware of and sadly he was never able to attend.
I’m not sure if you picked up the latest news, the latest scuttlebutt, but there was a piece on TimesLive this morning that says – and it quotes an unnamed SARS source who says that Gavin smuggled R500m into a trust account in Guernsey.
That’s absolute nonsense. Alec, I’m fully aware of all his financial affairs. That is something that has been part of this inquiry so we would have put all that together. Gavin is not a wealthy man with regards to his assets – beyond his shareholding in the company, of which he was a minority. As I’ve said to you before, he’s got a two bedroom townhouse in Krugersdorp. It’s nothing fancy, he doesn’t even own a car. His car was a company car that he paid fringe benefits tax on, it was seized by the liquidators in February when they went into voluntary liquidation. It has been at the office since then and beyond that he has a home, which he bought in Port Elizabeth in the mid 90s before Bosasa was anything and really there’s nothing else to tell. Those are his assets. He has no foreign passport. He doesn’t travel regularly beyond the borders of South Africa, there’s nothing really else to say. The only person I know that has assets overseas is Angelo Agrizzi the man making – we believe – all these allegations. He’s the person with a foreign passport. He has a mansion in Italy, an olive grove in Italy. He has assets outside the country. Gavin has nothing. The allegation is absolute nonsense. If there’s R500m overseas, whoever is making the accusation is welcome to go and get it because we know absolutely nothing about it.
That car that you’ve mentioned, there were reports immediately after Gavin’s passing that he’d taken his BMW X5 and handed it in at Bosasa and taken out a Toyota Corolla on Friday. What car did he arrive at your home on Sunday?
I actually cannot remember what car he was in. He might have been in that car already. I can’t recall but for some time Gavin hasn’t had his BMW, it’s been parked at the office park since February when they entered into voluntary liquidation, which was precipitated by the banks withdrawing their banking facility, the liquidator seized all the cars and that vehicle has been there since February. And there’s really no complexity to the story beyond that.
What was he doing at the airport at 5am in the morning if he was going to be coming to see you at 7am?
That is the question Alec. We are investigating – we don’t know. It’s merely speculation at the moment. I don’t know if maybe he was going to have a meeting at the airport – it is a regular spot for meetings before someone flies out of the airport. Bosasa did security at the airport and generally what would happen is the staff would meet in the morning before work hours, I think work started at 6am and sometime before then they would have a prayer meeting and they would sing a worship song – the staff at the airport. I don’t know if maybe he wanted to be there for that because he was awake, I don’t know. We don’t know anything really at this stage. I’m just merely speculating.
Jared, I’ve spent a little bit of time with your family and I think your Christianity is pretty authentic, yet the way that it’s being viewed is as a cult. Those prayer meetings or the singing of the Bosasa staff at the airport every morning that you’ve mentioned, is that something that’s done voluntary?
Of course because Gavin’s not at the airport every day. If staff decide that they want to sing a song and have a prayer in the morning before their works starts, that’s their decision. No one’s compelling them to do anything. My uncle’s not there every morning, I think he almost never was and prayer meetings at the office park were voluntary. This accusation that it is a cult is disgusting to me. It’s an attack on Christianity in general. Christians around the country meet for home group meetings, for prayer meetings, they attend church on Sundays. At my church we’ve had a 24 hour prayer meeting – just like at Bosasa and these are regular occurrences in the Christian church in South Africa. For me to even suggest that this was a cult is disgusting, I mean this business was used to provide so much support for Christian causes, I mean it’s on record where the business was supporting the schooling of thousands of people over the last few years, they were investing money into church organisations. I’m dumbfounded by the mere accusation of this being a cult. People coming together and praying together in the mornings before work started.
From the family’s perspective how have they taken this given that you are such a close family?
It’s been hard because it was unexpected. Gavin was a very healthy 71 year old man. I think everyone he’s met would say to him I cannot believe you’re 71 years old you don’t look 71. He would laugh about it. At the tax inquiry he said the chairman came up to him and refused to believe he was 71 years old. He laughed about that. So he was very good for his age, was very healthy so it’s unexpected and obviously we don’t know too much about about how he passed, so that’s never nice. He was a born again Christian and we are all Christians in the family. We believe that Gavin is in a perfect place now without pain and suffering. Because of that we can celebrate him. So the pain we feel is for ourselves that we won’t get to see him for some time.
Just to close off with, do you think there was any foul play?
Alec, we’re not ruling it out at this stage. We have heard before, accusations raised in the media, where apparently Mikey Schultz told News24, I think that Angelo Agrizzi had offered to pay him money to assault Gavin in March 2018. This is the same time I’ve shown emails to you where Angelo Agrizzi and his cohorts were wanting to come back into the company. It doesn’t make sense. The only bit of evidence we have is that Gavin Watson’s phone wasn’t found and we were doing a track on that phone on the day with someone assisting us and the phone happened to be in Germiston during the day and then moved to Bryanston by 7pm or 8pm that night, which is sometime after he had already passed. Which raises many questions and because of this, we just can’t rule out anything at this stage.
So there was a phone in his possession…
It was never found in his possession, but we were tracing it and during the day, the phone was in Germiston and then it moved to Bryanston – in the evening at around 7pm. We went with the police to find the phone but they could only locate it to a radius of apparently 30 to 50 metres. So we looked around in the dark and we couldn’t find it and then eventually we we were no longer able to trace it.
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