South Africa: Agrizzi - I Did Not Murder Gavin Watson

Ranjeni Munusamy, Associate Editor at Tiso BlackStar, being interviewed on CNBC Africa's Power Lunch show in 2018.
29 September 2019

Former Bosasa supremo Angelo Agrizzi has hit back at media reports quoting family members of Gavin Watson which essentially accused him of being involved in the "murder" of Watson.

Watson was pronounced dead on the scene of a car crash near OR Tambo Airport last month. The Bosasa-owned Toyota Corolla sedan he was driving collided with a concrete bridge pillar on an access road to the airport terminal.

It remains unclear why Watson was at the airport that morning.

READ: 'Very plausible' that Gavin Watson was trying to flee country when he died - Angelo Agrizzi

Preliminary autopsy reports have indicated that Watson's heart had stopped beating and that he was possibly dead before the collision, evidenced by the lack of significant bleeding from a serious neck wound which resulted in a severed carotid artery.

There has been no official evidence made public to indicate Watson may have been murdered or that his death is being treated as suspicious. Police investigators have been tight lipped over the probe.

Now Agrizzi has taken a swipe at the Sowetan newspaper, which on Wednesday published an article quoting Jared Watson - Gavin's nephew - saying the only person who stood to gain from Gavin's death was Agrizzi.

Agrizzi wants Sowetan to retract the story and issue a public apology as he believes the newspaper has falsely portrayed him as a murderer, unsafe to be around and has damaged his reputation based on "highly speculative and defamatory" comments made by Jared Watson.

"Our client vehemently denies any involvement in the death of the late Gavin Watson," Agrizzi's letter to Sowetan reads.

"The allegations made in the offending content are vague and lack any specificity whatsoever. There is no way our client can be expected to provide sufficient evidence in rebuttal of these allegations."

The Sowetan story also repeats claims by Jared Watson over the movement of Gavin's phone, which he has previously claimed was traced to Germiston and Bryanston.

Gavin's phone went missing on the morning he died.

Gavin Watson had R70 but no cellphone on him when he diedhttps://t.co/IZLMtlethn pic.twitter.com/1iqDhsqTq4-- News24 (@News24) August 27, 2019

"The reality is that even the movement of the phone is suspicious. It was traced to Germiston, during the day, where Argizzi and his brother have a business... and then later at 8pm it was traced to Bryanston Drive after which it could no longer be traced, which is on the way to Agrizzi's home in Fourways," Jared Watson was quoted by Sowetan as saying.

Agrizzi's attorney Daniel Witz points out in the letter to the newspaper that Germiston has a population of 255 863 people as per a recent census and making a "broad and unfounded allegations that this connects the death of the late Gavin Watson to our client is vexatious to say the least".

Similarly the letter states that the phone being traced to Bryanston Drive did not mean it was on its way to Fourways.

Sowetan editor S'thembiso Msomi confirmed receipt of Agrizzi's letter and said the newspaper would deal with the issue on Sunday and Monday.

Conspiracy and motive

Gavin Watson was due to appear before a tax inquiry later in the same week he died, and according to Jared Watson his uncle was to present detailed evidence over how Agrizzi had lied during his marathon testimony before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

The testimony by Agrizzi in January this year detailed years of grand corruption at Bosasa, deeply implicating Gavin Watson and other members of the Watson family as well as several senior Bosasa executives in criminal activity, which included serious allegations over tax evasion.

In March, SARS approached the Pretoria High Court to establish a tax inquiry to examine the veracity of the allegations and establish the truth over possible tax offenses dating back to 2010.

Jared's comments to Sowetan sought to suggest that Agrizzi stood to gain from Watson failing to present this evidence, hence his belief Agrizzi was involved in Gavin's death.

A document detailing the alleged falsehoods by Agrizzi during his testimony, authored by Jared, was published by BizNews this week.

Jared Watson told News24 on Saturday the document was requested by SARS and was a supplementary document in addition to evidence already submitted to the inquiry by Gavin.

He confirmed handing the document to BizNews and viewed the 'free press' and the tax inquiry as an appropriate platform for these documents to be aired.

"The document addresses questions that were put forward to Gavin Watson and his subsequent answers at his first appearance at the SARS Inquiry, for which the Advocate representing SARS requested supporting documentation," Jared said in a written response to questions over why Gavin was seeking to deal with evidence before the Zondo Commission before a tax inquiry instead.

Jared shared a redacted extract of Gavin's evidence before the tax inquiry which confirms his first appearance before the inquiry was on 26 June and stated that the document was prepared at SARS' request in support of representations made by Gavin Watson during this first appearance.

Conspiracy to murder

The Sowetan article quoted Jared Watson as saying: "If there was foul play as we suspect, we would have to ask who would stand to gain from Gavin's death, and who had threatened Gavin's life before. The only answer we have to both these questions is Agrizzi. Obviously, Agrizzi stood to gain from Gavin's death as Gavin was to provide information confirming that Agrizzi had been stealing from Bosasa and disproving all the lies he had told at the state capture commission. The consequences would be dire for Agrizzi."

The article also presented Agrizzi as a "defendant" in the tax inquiry but according to court documents that established the inquiry and seen by News24, Agrizzi is not a subject of the taxman's probe.

This includes a company named GRLM Investments, whose sole director is Jared Watson.

Asked why the Watson family had not simply approached the Zondo commission in the months since Agrizzi gave his testimony, Jared stated the Zondo commission has not "allowed anyone to appear publicly to defend themselves and to cross examine Agrizzi."

"This is evidenced by the fact that Kevin Wakeford [Armscor CEO against whom Agrizzi made allegations of corruption] submitted an affidavit, in repsonse to Agrizzi's lies at the Commission, in February 2019 and still today has not been afforded the opportunity to cross examine Agrizzi, nor to appear before the Commission. The Commission merely provided the affidavit to Agrizzi," Jared Waton told News24.

"This is the precedent established by the commission," he added.

The Zondo commission was asked this week to respond to these claims by Jared Watson, and also to confirm News24's understanding that no member of the Watson family had made any approach to the Zondo commission since Agrizzi's testimony, but no response was forthcoming at the time of writing.

SARS also did not respond to detailed queries over events surrounding the tax inquiry, citing secrecy provisions in tax law.

News24

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