A Pretoria attorney died a day after he gave explosive evidence before a secret insolvency inquiry probing the affairs of corruption accused company, Bosasa.
Danie Potgieter, who advised the Bosasa board on steps it took to place the group of companies under voluntary liquidation in February 2019, is understood to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Thursday.
In the past two years, extensive reportage by News24 and evidence before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture has revealed large-scale fraud and corruption surrounding Bosasa.
The company allegedly paid bribes to various government officials and politicians in exchange for securing government contracts worth R12 billion since 2004.
News24 understands that Potgieter gave evidence before the inquiry, which is being chaired by retired Judge Meyer Joffe, on Wednesday.
The nature of the evidence is not known as the inquiry is not open to the public, but one person with intimate knowledge of the evidence presented said it was “damning” of the conduct of the Bosasa board as well as the late Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson and his family.
Potgieter was asked to explain large sums of money paid to him by Bosasa during the time period spanning the company’s decision to go under voluntary liquidation.
He handed over several key documents to the inquiry as well as explained his role and the truth behind the company’s decision to go under voluntary liquidation.
He was asked to return on Thursday to provide further documents, but his legal representative informed Joffe on Thursday afternoon that Potgieter had died.
Marius Viljoen, Potgieter’s attorney, said it was upsetting that the media appeared to have “intricate knowledge of persons subpoenaed to appear before the enquiry and as to their testimony”.
“This, in all probability, will cause witnesses not to disclose vital information that could assist in unravelling the mysteries behind the [Bosasa] group.
“In any event, it is a very sad day as we lost a very experienced and respected member of our legal profession. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family, friends and colleagues in this distressing and challenging time,” Viljoen said.
Attorney Danie Potgieter. (Image via Facebook)
News24 also reached out to Potgieter’s wife on social media, but had not received a response at the time of writing.
Potgieter’s evidence could prove pivotal in understanding what truly happened during the final days of Bosasa, which, facing bank account closures, decided to voluntarily wind up the business.
The Bosasa board previously challenged its own decision to place the companies under liquidation, which Potgieter advised them to do, in court and was initially successful.
Former Bosasa chair Joe Gumede argued in court papers that they had been ill-advised by Potgieter.
The Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the High Court order setting aside the board resolution for liquidation in November 2019, effectively placing the companies under liquidation once more.
Since then, the liquidators approached the court for an order granting the establishment of an insolvency inquiry, while Jared Watson, Gavin’s nephew, filed an application to have some of the Bosasa companies placed under business rescue instead.
News24 previously reported that Jared, Roth and Lindsay Watson were subpoenaed to appear before the inquiry to answer questions over the financial affairs of the Bosasa group.
The business rescue application, as well as an application for an interdict Jared sought to halt a massive auction of Bosasa’s assets in December, were set down to be heard earlier this month in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.
The matter was postponed to 4 and 5 May.
“Ultimately, this application is persisted with the clear ulterior motive to neutralise the appointment of truly independent liquidators to the subject companies under circumstances where the Bosasa protagonists had a clearly intended plan in mind when they placed the said companies in liquidation on day one,” an affidavit by one of the liquidators, Cloete Murray, reads.
Murray was appointed by the master of the court at the behest of the South African Revenue Service (SARS), who has emerged as the group’s single largest creditor.
Immediately after being appointed, Murray took no prisoners, taking charge of the Bosasa head office park in Krugersdorp and effectively locking the directors and the Watson family out.
SARS filed papers opposing the application for business rescue, saying it was clear Bosasa continuously failed to meet its obligations under tax law.
The tax service said that the group of companies owed more than R849 million in taxes on initial assessments, a figure that is likely to increase.