Agrizzi: It was a “travesty” – After victory over SARS

Angelo Agrizzi, the BOSASA whistleblower, criticises the South African Revenue Services’ attempt to seize his foreign assets as a “travesty”. The Gauteng High Court denied SARS’ request to repatriate Agrizzi’s assets in Italy to cover allegedly unpaid taxes. The court also granted Agrizzi’s counter-application to review SARS’ decision to refuse his application for a suspension of tax payment. The case is linked to testimony of fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion presented before the Zondo Commission involving Agrizzi’s former employer. Agrizzi sees the ruling as a personal victory but laments the legal battle’s toll on him.

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By Chris Steyn

BOSASA whistleblower Angelo Agrizzi has called the South African Revenue Services’ (SARS) bid to get its hands on his foreign assets “a travesty”.

This after the Gauteng High Court refused to grant SARS an order to compel the repatriation of Agrizzi’s assets in Italy.

SARS had brought the application for the compulsory repatriation of foreign assets held by Agrizzi, notably those in Italy, to cover a claim for R174 million in allegedly unpaid taxes.

Read more: Martin Welz: Now SARS attacks Agrizzi – the curious tale of Bosasa whistleblower’s R230m tax bill

The court also granted Agrizzi’s counter-application to review SARS’ decision to refuse his application for a suspension of payment of his assessed tax liability.

Assets listed in the Notice of Motion included immovable property in Italy estimated to be worth R15 259 400.00, a BMW X5 to the estimated value of R1 767 660.00, funds in his bank account at Intesa Sanpaolo of R398 018.11, as well as crypto currency of unknown value.

SARS convened a tax enquiry after evidence was led before the Zondo Commission of “a large scheme of fraud, money laundering, racketeering and tax evasion” involving Agrizzi’s former employer, the African Global Group of Companies, previously known as BOSASA. 

It concluded that Agrizzi, who was the group’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) at the time, had received “gross income” which he had failed to declare in his annual tax return.

SARS eventually assessed an amount of R196 050 232.83 as undeclared tax income. Agrizzi’s tax liability was assessed at R230 166 728.55.

Agrizzi twice asked for an extension of the due date for payment. Both were granted. He then submitted a request for suspension of payment. SARS refused.

Read more: ‘Zondo at Your Fingertips’: Paul Holden’s new book provides a condensed summary of the 4750 page Zondo commission report

However, the assessed amount was reduced from R230 million to R174 million.

After Agrizzi was arrested for fraud and corruption in 2020, the bail amount was set equal to his fixed property in Castel Del Piano in Italy. He ceded to the State all his rights, title and interest in the property to be held as security.

SARS argued that although foreign assets formed part of the bail conditions, those assets remained Agrizzi’s.

But the court found that a repatriation order of those assets would be “legally impossible” because it would be contrary to his bail conditions. That could result in his bail being revoked and Agrizzi being remanded in custody within 48 hours of the breach of “any” of those conditions.

Read the full judgement below

In his comment to BizNews, Agrizzi wrote: “Some might see (this court ruling) as a victory against SARS. I see it as a travesty that it happened at all. It appears to me, as a lay person, that it was driven by the legal representatives [of] SARS and has all the hallmarks of a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) suit,” says Agrizzi.

“I have attempted to help SARS concerning BOSASA whereas I could have kept quiet and taken the R50 million bribe offered to me (for my silence). 

“I must also point out we were not forced to go to the Zondo Commission, as there were at that time no pending arrests. Instead, we resolutely stood up for the truth and testified before Judge Raymond Zondo at the State Capture Commission.

“I am grateful to Judge Zondo for his findings and his attitude towards whistleblowers. Hopefully our society will start seeing the value of whistleblowers and that we will not be castigated based on perceptions created by those we exposed for state capture.”

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