Angelo Agrizzi has brain damage and cannot follow proceedings, court hears

Ernest Mabuza Journalist
Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi attended the hearing virtually.
Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi attended the hearing virtually.
Image: Ernest Mabuza

Former Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi’s prison and medical records in October 2020 after he was denied bail led a neurosurgeon to conclude he had suffered a brain injury, making him incapable of following court proceedings.

This was heard during the cross-examination of Dr Herman Edeling in the Pretoria high court on Wednesday, who concluded that Agrizzi suffered a hypoxic ischaemic brain injury on October 19 2020.

This is the type of brain injury that occurs when the brain experiences a decrease in oxygen or blood flow.   

The court is inquiring on the failure by Agrizzi to attend trial since 2020. Agrizzi has not been able to attend court since October 2020 in two cases he is facing, allegedly because of illness. 

State advocate Arno Rossouw asked Edeling what notes specifically indicated to him that Agrizzi had brain damage. 

Edeling said this was based on notes from the department of correctional services from October 14 2020, after he was denied bail.

He also said he relied on medical records from the Chris Baragwanath Hospital after Agrizzi had been moved to that facility after he collapsed in prison, where he allegedly suffered a heart attack.

Edeling also said there were notes from Life Fourways Hospital, where Agrizzi was moved to later that year that he used to rely on to reach his conclusion.

Edeling said one of the notes from prison nursing services showed Agrizzi was snoring and restless. Edeling said this showed there was cerebral hypoxia or cerebral haemorrhage. 

Another note from prison said Agrizzi had not had medication since admission.

“That is why blood pressure levels went out of control. The nursing manager found he was not responding to external stimuli. It happened in prison before he went to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.”

He said another note showed he had blue lips and blue nose, symptoms of impaired brain function. 

Rossouw asked Edeling whether Agrizzi was capable of understanding proceedings as they were run now.

“No, not under current circumstances,” Edeling said. He said during his examination of Agrizzi in March last year, Agrizzi did not have mental capacity to understand a question immediately, but could only do so after the question had been simplified and repeated.

“The way these court proceedings have been happening, there have been questions and answers. I do not believe Mr Agrizzi will be able to follow everything that has been said,” Edeling said.

Edeling said having practised as a general practitioner for 10 years and having looked at Agrizzi in his virtual appearance in court, “he cannot appear physically in court”.

Judge David Makhoba told Edeling that the purpose of this inquiry was to determine whether Agrizzi had wilfully absented himself from attending the trial.

Edeling said he could only express an opinion on data he had examined.

“From the date of my assessment, I came to the conclusion he is not neurologically fit to stand trial.”

Makhoba said he had never asked anyone to tell him whether Agrizzi understood  proceedings, as there were steps to be taken in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.

Section 79 of the act allows a court to order an assessment of the accused’s fitness to stand trial.

“It is only [from] those experts that I can accept their response that this man cannot understand proceedings. I am not criticising your testimony,” Makhoba said.

Agrizzi is facing charges of corruption in connection with kickbacks worth R800,000 to former ANC MP Vincent Smith, allegedly received from Bosasa in exchange for his political influence and protection. 

In the tender fraud case, Agrizzi is co-accused alongside former correctional services commissioner Linda Mti, the department’s former CFO Patrick Gillingham, and former Bosasa CFO Andries van Tonder.  

The inquiry continues on Friday.


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