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In this hard-hitting interview on Rational Radio, chartered accountant Jared Watson, who spent much of the past year compiling the Bosasa Files, explains why he invested so much time on the dynamite project. The nephew of the founder of vilified Bosasa, the late Gavin Watson, shares how the documentation explains the motives of Bosasa’s former COO Angelo Agrizzi, and unpacks the key relationships of the Zondo Commission’s star witness with senior members of the Democratic Alliance and News24’s editor in chief Adriaan Basson. – Alec Hogg
I’m talking now with Jared Watson, the nephew of Gavin Watson, founder and the recently deceased Chief Executive of Bosasa. Jared, the documentation that you put together – what we’ve called the Bosasa Files – which is on Biznews, has just gone viral. It was our biggest day ever on the website yesterday and we’ve been going for six years with big stories in that time . There’s a lot of interest. Let’s just go back a little bit. Why did you put this all together?
We were exploring the possibility of submitting an affidavit to the Zondo Commission and at a later stage it became necessary – because of a tax inquiry that was established for Bosasa and related entities – so it was prepared as a submission to SARS.
Please explain that, what is the tax inquiry about?
It was effectively established as a result of allegations that were raised by Agrizzi and his team at the Zondo Commission. On the strength of those accusations, an inquiry was put together to investigate the truthfulness of the allegations – or at least their version of it – and to investigate the tax consequences thereof.
So that’s interesting. The authorities are going through a process of checking out what Agrizzi said. From your perspective and certainly from what we’ve seen it doesn’t appear to have been similarly treated in the media. Is that changing now?
Since your article, there’s been a lot of interest. People have started to question the truthfulness of Agrizzi. The narrative in general, has been one of State Capture, but yes, we’re being asked questions now. People actually want to hear our position for the first time.
Did anybody contact you in the past?
In August last year, when Agrizzi sent a letter to the press, our immediate response was to contact the press and to get the Bosasa version of their story out there. Everything we tried just fell on deaf ears. No one wanted to hear our story. It wasn’t the story that the public wanted to hear – a situation of corporate espionage – they wanted to hear the story of State Capture which was relevant at the time. It was the juicy story before elections in May of this year. People wanted to believe that there was some greater story at hand. No one wanted to hear the story of Bosasa. Effectively what we were dealing with, was an ex-employee who wanted to take over the business – and if he wasn’t allowed to take over the business then to destroy it – so that he could take their contracts. It was nothing more than that. But as I said no one wanted to hear that story.
Quite a few people who come out really badly in the documentary evidence that you’ve put together include Adriaan Basson from News 24. Did you approach him at any point in time and try to give your side?
Actually I did speak with Adriaan quite recently – it was around a week or two ago. I cannot talk about about his relationship is with the Agrizzi. I’ve never been in a room with the two of them. All I can talk about is what evidence we have and what Agrizzi himself has purported and what Agrizzi’s teammate Andries van Tonder has said about Adriaan Basson as well. There are a number of other parties that have confirmed and said that he and Angelo had a very good relationship which goes back some time. That’s documented in the files that you’ve uploaded, that’s documented in the transcript of the recording where Angelo says that himself, it’s documented in a transcript of a recording where Andries van Tonder confirms that, it’s documented in an email on the 7th of March 2008 where Angelo specifically says that to the auditors of Bosasa. I had that email because Angelo gave me that email himself on about the 25th of August last year. In the file, theres an email from April 2016 of a private communication on Agrizzi’s personal email address between him and Adriaan Basson. Adriaan must defend himself and say what his perspective is on that whole relationship. All I can do is pass on what is in my hands – the transcripts of where they were purporting to be very close friends.
What about the Democratic Alliance? In the Bosasa files that are on Biznews, there’s quite a lot of linkages between Agrizzi, his son and the official opposition.
Yeah. I met Angelo in August last year, the letter he sent to the press – on the 21st of August – was incredibly confusing. He was raising accusations that he had never raised before and I asked what precipitated this letter. He said – amongst other things – that if we do this we will be darlings in the old South Africa. His words verbatim. When he said that, he then handed me his phone and he showed me a video of Glynnis Breytenbach at his house. This relationship was quite concerning. He said he had become very close friends with high ranking members of the Democratic Alliance and that he will be held as a hero if he brings down Bosasa. Because of that, I decided to do an investigation to see if there was more to be understood. That’s how I came across the history of his son forming a company with employees of the DA and Angelo then requesting Vincent Smith to place his son within the ANC. It was incredibly troubling. Why would some kid form a company with the Democratic Alliance employees? Forming directorships with employees of that organisation who are to this day still employed by that organisation. Giancarlo – Angelo’s son – asking to be placed within the ANC, then four years later – just before the general elections in May of this year – saying oh I left the ANC because I became privy to high level corruption within the ANC. It all just seemed like a game plan that was established. I was hoping that the documentation that I uncovered, would reveal these elements. So we know these things from both sides and that there’s something far greater here.
Apart from being on Biznews right now, where is the documentation that was put together – as you say – initially – for the SARS inquiry. Was it ever submitted?
It actually hasn’t been submitted yet. Obviously Gavin passed away the day before he was to submit it. And so we’re still trying to understand what channels to go through for the file to make its way to SARS. What you have uploaded, isn’t the complete file. It’s the chronology of elements, which explains the timeline of Agrizzi’s involvement with Bosasa. It’s a significant portion of the file, but there are more specific tax issues that are also dealt with.
Where did you get this information from?
I’ve been doing an investigation for the better part of this year. I would speak to people within the organisations, go through company files, doing my own research on the Internet using whatever capabilities I have to just try and accumulate documentation. Then a significant portion of it – believe it or not – was actually handed to me by Angelo Agrizzi last August. I saw him last year August – to understand why he had written this email to the press that was then published by Adriaan Basson – and he just started shovelling documentation to me which I kept. I never read through it at the time and never thought anything would come of it, but that actually stoked the fire. It made me realise that something else is happening here. Two e-mails that he provided me with on the 7th of March, had Angelo Agrizzi’s name on the top – when it was printed – those emails were handed to me by him personally. The interesting part is that on the 7th of March 2018 at 10:00am, he e-mails the auditors of Bosasa to make disparaging remarks about the company and its employees and then 12 hours later – on the same day – he e-mails the group legal advisor and says he would like to come in – together with past employees – and turn around the business. It just shows his modus operandi. He threatens the company and then offers to be the saviour. It reads quite easily through the documentation, he consistently threatens and then asks to take over.
He sounds like a bit of a mastermind. You do show in the documentation, chess scenes that have been made, does Agrizzi see himself as a puppet master in a way?
Yes. I think he does. I think that’s how he likes to present himself. In my view we’re dealing with someone that has an obsession with power and being perceived to be in control. Why would a person own 5 Ferrari’s? It’s not to drive them, it’s so that people can see what you own, that you can be lauded. I believe it’s the power, the control. I think – when he was retrenched from the business – that’s made him potentially go insane for lack of a better term. He was previously the man that effectively controlled 4,500 – 6,000 employees and now that position of control was taken away from him. From the chess perspective, he would have chess pieces made. He had chess pieces made of of Zondo, of Ramaphosa, he had chess pieces made of President Zuma, chess pieces made of Gavin Watson. It’s almost like some strange game to him – that he controls all these parts. I actually have those chess pieces, he gave them to me when I went to his house. We kept this as part of evidence – which is obviously not in the files – because it’s a physical chess piece, but it’s just part of his games which he would gloat about.
Getting to your Uncle – the late Gavin Watson – he was with you the night before he died. You told us before that it was a family celebration – he left in good spirits – and you were looking forward to meeting each other the next morning. I did talk to your father Valence, about some questions that had arisen about his death – which still appeared to be unexplained – given all the documentation that has gone together are you now suspecting foul play?
There’s a lot of information that’s already out there, elements that have been ruled out and then elements that cannot be ruled out. We haven’t been afforded the opportunity to rule out foul play yet. Given certain elements that have happened such as the movement of his phone subsequent to his death and what was he doing in that area at that time of the morning. It could have most likely been for a meeting, however, no one has come forward to tell us they were having a meeting with him. There are a number of elements that just don’t add up. We are trying to get the police to investigate further. The fact that his heart wasn’t beating at the time of the impact of the vehicle, would then suggest that either this was an accident or some health issue before the impact of the vehicle, there are just a number of factors that just all are unanswered for us at this stage. Given those factors, I personally suspect that there was foul play and I would naturally ask who would stand to gain from Gavin’s death and who had been a threat to him in the past? The only answer I can come to in that regard, is Angelo Agrizzi himself and I think the evidence shows that in the file.
The reality is that Gavin was to attend the SARS inquiry where his intention was to demonstrate all the lies that Agrizzi had told in the past. That was to be the next day after Gavin died and then the following day after Gavin was to appear, Agrizzi himself appeared. I would say there is a massive incentive for Agrizzi to see that Gavin never made that inquiry. From the other aspect, if you look at the file, you’ll see on the 19th of March, Agrizzi says that himself, Andries van Tonder, Leon van Tonder and France Vorster – as well as other ex-employees from Bosasa – all wanted to return to the company and they wanted to be part of what he called a turnaround team. When that offer was rejected – on the 19th of March – we see from a news24 article, that Mikey Schultz was contacted towards the end of March, beginning of April by Agrizzi, who was offering to pay him in the region of R2m to seriously assault Gavin. So we were aware of how he’s operated in the past, where he uses underhanded tactics to get what he wants or to enact out his plans. He knows so. So these are very troubling things for me and questions that we need to ask. It was published this last Sunday – in the Sunday World – that Agrizzi was sending messages to past employees of the business, the very day before Gavin died saying please turn on Gavin and side with me. He was offering to pay them through his brother’s business, the day before Gavin died. Then two days after Gavin died he was trying to contact directors of the business to say the exact same thing to them as well and we’ve got those those WhatsApp messages on record. So these are all very troubling things – particularly regarding the timing.
Who’s investigating this apart from you?
At the moment it’s the police. We’ve investigated privately you know – I’m trying to figure out as much as I can to be of assistance – but information hasn’t been forthcoming. We’re told that it’s supposed to take 48 hours for us to get the tracking data from his cellphone. There’s a 205 subpoena where the police are supposed to provide you with the tracking data from the phone which is potentially massively influential information. We’re over a month in and still haven’t received any communication. So I’m personally not impressed with the information we’ve received so far. The only credible intel we’ve received is from the professionals that we have employed ourselves.
You said earlier that you’ve spent much of the last year investigating this. Obviously you must have a day job. Have you given up on that and reallocated your time?
No. I’m basically moonlighting on the side effectively using what available time I have to assist in this regard. I’m not employed by Bosasa. I never have been and never received anything from it, but the reality is Agrizzi has tried to destroy everyone in that business and everyone connected to it – including ourselves – because we’re Gavin’s family. Obviously if you are in that position you’ll do anything in your power to resurrect your name. So I’m just using what available time I have to be of whatever assistance I can be.
Where is this going to now? Because it does appear as though the public still – judging from the e-mails and the responses I get on social media – that there are many people who don’t believe it, who believe that I’ve been duped by you and presumably you’ve been duped by Gavin. Where does it all end?
In the court of public opinion, I can’t say where this is going. It’s called confirmation bias in finance. Generally people go out there looking for information that will support their current view, they don’t go out there looking for the truth. So I can’t say, when someone’s presented with definitive evidence, if they would change their view on us. I don’t think so because that’s generally not how humanity works. When I spoke to Adriaan Basson, I said we can be cordial with each other, but we don’t have a relationship built over time, so I can’t trust anything he’s saying to me and I don’t expect him to trust anything I’m saying to him. I don’t think the public should believe anything I say necessarily just because I’m saying it. They should look at the information that’s on hand and judge for themselves. They mustn’t listen to my opinion. I’m not objective in that I am Gavin’s nephew, they should look at the evidence that is now on hand and judge for themselves.
Trust but verify. Just to close off with, during the apartheid era, your family had quite a rough ride – especially in the white community – having looked back on that era, we know that there were forces that were providing fake news information. Were the Watsons subjected to that?
Of course. We have articles from the 80’s which made the exact same accusations about Gavin specifically, that the public is saying now. Nothing has changed. We have to realise that this is the nature of media. We’ve been dealing with this – as a family – since the 70’s, it’s nothing new. That’s the sad reality. Everyone says they want to hear your story, I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. At the end of the day people just believe whatever’s written in the media and if the media doesn’t want to write what you have to say, you have no control of that. Media is very centrally held in this country. If we look historically, the very same person that formed the National Party – Barry Hertzog – formed Naspers – which is the most powerful media organisation in the country by far. So there are historical elements to understand in the media that we’ll never be able to escape. That is the reality of it. So can we control that? No we can’t. Where it goes from here I don’t know.
Many books written about that time – Hennie Van Vuuren’s “Apartheid, Guns and Money” being one of the better ones – which shows that there was a lot of counter intelligence or misinformation provided at that time. When you say that what was written about Gavin Watson during the 80’s, is the same as being written now, was there a narrative that was being promoted?
Correct. Yes. The very same things that are being said now – some of which I don’t even feel like verbalising – were being said in in the 80s. Gavin was having affairs with black woman. They were stealing and they were involved in insurance fraud. If you put that media narrative then, next the media narrative now, it’s like the same person writing the same articles. So nothing has changed and there’s nothing that you can do to to control it. That is just the reality. Don’t forget that – for lack of a better term – Naspers was considered State Media. Naspers was responsible for publishing a lot of apartheid propaganda. However, when they had the truth and reconciliation commission, Naspers – as an organisation – never came forward to apologise for anything. I believe hundreds of journalists – that were employed by them – came forward to tell their side of the story, to apologise. But as an organisation – still to date – Naspers has taken no credibility. What the media chooses to publish about us is out of our control. There’s nothing that we can do about that.
But you can put together the documentation and say go and read it, go and see the facts.
True. We’re very grateful for that. We don’t have a history with each other – you and I – but I’m grateful that you at least have uploaded the documentation we have to allow others to judge for themselves.
And you have more documentation.
There is more and there’s more that we are trying to gather. This is an ongoing investigation. As we are able to come across more information we will release that. This is the process that we’re going through.
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