Bosasa’s Gavin Watson ‘told me to pay Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s R1.1m legal fees’
Peet Venter, testifying at the state-capture inquiry, says a shelf company was used to pay money to politically connected individuals
Controversial prisons facilities company Bosasa allegedly used a shelf company to siphon off money to politically connected individuals and prop up its expenses. The claim was made at the state-capture inquiry on Tuesday.
The company, Miotto Trading and Advisory Holdings, was run by Bosasa’s own tax consultant, Peet Venter, who oversaw the flow of money among its own companies and others that it dealt with.
From a dormant entity, Miotto was launched into the spotlight last year when various media reports linked the company to sizeable payments made to benefit former SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s son, Andile.
In 2015, Bosasa needed tax assistance with SeaArk Africa, its failed venture into the aquaculture business that aimed to breed prawns in a controlled environment. It approached Tax Risk Management Services (TRM), a company owned by well-known tax attorney Daniel Erasmus. When concerns in the working relationship emerged, Venter jumped to the company’s aid, revitalising Miotto, which is listed in his sister’s name, to act as a cash portal between Bosasa and TRM.
Venter described how Miotto paid TRM for its services on the SeaArk Africa project and thereafter invoiced Bosasa at an inflated price. The payments, according to Venter, continued between 2016 and 2017. At this time, he was still in the employ of D’Arcy-Herrman & Co, which acted as Bosasa’s auditors.
Venter became more entwined in Bosasa’s dealings in 2017. He told the commission that in August that year, Bosasa boss Gavin Watson “approached me to assist him pay the legal costs of [Hlaudi Motsoeneng]”.
Venter said he made the payments, through Miotto, in two instalments: one for about R600,000 and another for about R587,000. This confirms previous media reports that Bosasa footed the R1.1m legal bill that Motsoeneng accrued from his battle with the SABC over his axing. Venter said the invoice for the legal bill came from Majavu, a firm belonging to Motsoeneng’s lawyer, Zola Majavu.
Venter claimed that in October 2017 he received another instruction from Watson, this time to facilitate a R3m payment for a home loan for one of the company’s employees, Lindi Gouws. The money supposedly came from Watson’s personal account and was transferred to Miotto — but Venter was also instructed to deposit R500,000 into an Absa bank account from the money.
This money, he was told, was destined for Ramaphosa’s son, Andile. “I wasn’t aware of what the relationship was and why [Watson] would make a payment to the son of the deputy president of SA,” Venter said.
It has since emerged that the money was donated to Ramaphosa’s 2017 presidential campaign.
Venter’s testimony is due to continue on Wednesday. Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi is expected to take the stand for a second round of testimony on Thursday.