Linda Mti absent as Bosasa accused appear

Ex-prisons boss expected to hand himself over to face corruption charges

PREMIUM


Former correctional services boss Linda Mti – who was believed to be in Port Elizabeth preparing to hand himself over to the Hawks – was conspicuously absent from the first court appearance in Pretoria of those charged with corruption at facilities management company Bosasa.
The Hawks arrested Bosasa whistle-blower Angelo Agrizzi, former correctional services chief financial officer Patrick Gillingham and former Bosasa chief financial officer Andries van Tonder on Wednesday.
Mti, who was briefly Nelson Mandela Bay’s head of safety and security, did not appear with his co-accused.
While the graft-accused Bosasa and correctional services bosses received phone calls instructing them to surrender in Pretoria, some 1,000km away in Port Elizabeth, Hawks officers were digging up a nowdefunct prawn farm in Coega.
The calls – made by officials from the Serious Economic Offences Unit – appeared to have been specifically designed to be placed at the same time as the dig, according to Hawks sources, who agreed to comment only if they were not identified.
“The suspects were ordered to hand themselves over within 24 hours,” one source said.
“As those calls were being made, other officers were at the [dig] site. It’s not the only place that is being searched. The evidence that has been given at the commission has been noted and it’s being acted on.
“The operations happening now are not the final pieces in the puzzle, but are crucial to closing this corruption down.
“Evidence has been gathered, with a lot pointing to senior government officials.
“There is a mountain of very interesting documents, including bank and travel records, which have been recovered,” the source said.
The Serious Economic Offences Unit, along with other units within the Hawks and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), has for nine years been investigating Bosasa and its alleged bribing and corrupting of government officials, including ministers, to secure R10bn worth of contracts with correctional services.
According to a Hawks source, the investigation has multiple legs, including looking at how money was shipped offshore, and is now being ramped up to include the help of Sars, the SIU and the National Treasury.
On Tuesday, as their colleagues began excavating a portion of the SeaArk prawn farm site, owned by Bosasa, Serious Economic Offences Unit officers called those who have now been charged, as well as Mti, to inform them of their impending arrests and instruct them to surrender.
The four, along with former Bosasa executives Carlos Bonafacio and Frans Vorster, are alleged to have been behind the irregular awarding of R1.6bn worth of tenders to the company by correctional services.
Agrizzi, Van Tonder and Gillingham, appearing in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria on Wednesday on charges of fraud, money laundering and corruption, were granted bail of R20,000 each.
Bonafacio and Vorster, appearing in the same court on separate charges relating to Bosasa’s dealings with correctional services, were also released on R20,000 bail.
They are all due back in court on March 27.
A source close to the investigation said Mti was believed to be in Port Elizabeth and that his lawyer had been told about the arrest warrant.
“He [Mti] is aware of the warrant of arrest. I think he is going to hand himself over today [Wednesday] or tomorrow [Thursday]. I hope.”
Asked where Mti was, the source confirmed that the Hawks believed he was in Port Elizabeth.
With regard to Mti handing himself over, the source said: “His lawyers will make the arrangements.”
Agrizzi spent nine days testifying at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.
He told the commission that every contract between the state and Bosasa was tainted by bribery and corruption.
The arrests are related to alleged tender fraud that allowed Bosasa to secure lucrative contracts at prisons across SA.
In 2009, the SIU handed over a report related to four Bosasa contracts with correctional services to the National Prosecuting Authority.
However, no prosecution has taken place since then.
Mti’s phone was off for most of Wednesday, going directly to voicemail.
It was on briefly at about 3.30pm, but Mti did not answer any calls.
At his home in Greenbushes – which made the news in late January when Agrizzi told the Zondo commission that Bosasa had installed a security system on the property – Mti’s brother, Maxwell, 71, said he had been unaware of any arrests.
“I did hear about these things on Bosasa though. But I don’t know what is going on now,” Maxwell said.
Referring to the state capture commission, whose proceedings were being screened on the TV set behind him, he said that was all he knew.
“My brother doesn’t speak to me about these things.”
Asked when he last saw Mti, Maxwell said: “My brother was here last month. He came to visit me.”
The Greenbushes house is surrounded by a large electric fence, with numerous outhouses located on the property.
Mti also owns a house on the banks of the Sundays River in Colchester.
The large, modern home is situated inside the gated community of River Side Park.
All the windows of the house were wide open on Wednesday, but there did not seem to be anyone inside.
The house has electric and palisade fencing in front with electric fencing and a brick wall at the back.
Mti’s neighbour, Kobus Oosthuizen, 62, who worked at the Kirkwood prison, said Mti did not use the property often.
“His brother comes and cuts the grass. That is really the extent of the property’s use.”
But he said Mti did stay for the odd weekend.
“It was not often that he came,” Oosthuizen said.
“But I was shocked to hear about all this Bosasa stuff.
“I never thought he would be linked like this.”
He said he had invited Mti over to his house previously, but Mti had not arrived.
“Once, he bought me a bottle of Klipdrift and a six-pack of beer because I keep a watch on his house.”
Asked about the state capture commission and Mti’s alleged involvement, Oosthuizen said: “It’s not nice to hear these things but I am glad things are moving on all this.”

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