White collar crime: 3 business men who died as the law was closing in

Gavin Watson, Brett Kebble and Markus Jooste. File Image: IOL

Gavin Watson, Brett Kebble and Markus Jooste. File Image: IOL

Published Mar 23, 2024


In light of disgraced businessman Markus Jooste’s suicide, IOL has placed a spotlight on men who died under suspicious circumstances as the law was closing in.

These three men are Markus Jooste, Brett Kebble and Gavin Watson.

Markus Jooste

The former chief executive of Steinhoff, Markus Jooste. Picture Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

The former CEO of Steinhoff International died by a self-inflicted gunshot on Thursday.

Jooste leaves behind his wife, Ingrid Jooste and a son and two daughters.

Jooste’s death comes in the wake of the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) imposing a R475 million penalty on him, after concluding that he contributed to the publication of misleading or deceptive financial statements about the company.

The FSCA said that the R475 million penalty against Jooste included an R10 million reimbursement to the FSCA for costs incurred in its investigations.

This had to be paid by April 19 and would attract an 11.75% interest until it was paid in full, the FSCA said.

Criminal proceedings were also being opened against Jooste by the FSCA.

Unathi Kamlana, the Commissioner of the FSCA said earlier this week that the financial body was working with the Hawks help to speed up their criminal probe, according to News24.

"We've been assisting the Hawks in their investigations, and they can use whatever information from our ruling that they feel is relevant," he noted.

News24 also reported that according to sources Jooste and Steinhoff’s former legal head Stéhan Grobler were informed earlier this week that they needed to hand themselves over to the Hawks by March 22.

IOL has reached out to the FSCA to see how the case will proceed given Jooste’s suicide. This is a developing story.

Brett Kebble

Brett Kebble. Picture: John Woodroof

Kebble was a prominent businessman and some would call an eccentric mining magnate who had close ties to the African National Congress.

He was a rather large player in the SA’s gold and diamond mining industry from the mid-1990s.

He started out at Rand Leases Gold Mining and later bought a controlling stake in Johannesburg Consolidated Investment (JCI) with Mzi Khumalo as part of a black economic empowerment deal.

Kebble had interests in several companies that included Randex, Randgold Resources, Consolidated African Mines, Harmony, Western Areas, and Durban Deep.

Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times that in order to fulfil a R4-billion acquisition of the South Deep gold mine, he through Western Areas sold a half-interest in South Deep to a rival firm.

It hedged production forward at a very low price and this led to disastrous issues when the gold price increased. Subsequently, Kebble’s business reputation suffered.

In August 2005 he was deposed from the companies he controlled and according to the Mail and Guardian (M&G) it was over concerns of major financial irregularities and failures in corporate governance.

M&G reported back in 2005 that 14.4 million shares in Randgold Resources were missing.

Kebble said that the shares had been loaned out. As a result, Randgold & Exploration had been suspended from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and was delisted from Nasdaq for not reporting its 2004 financial results.

At the time of his death, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said that Kebble was facing fraud charges and would face prosecution for contravening the Stock Exchanges Control Act.

In September 2005 he was killed after a number of gunshots in Johannesburg on the M1 in Abbotsford.

Forensic scientist Dr David Klatzow's investigation noted that Kebble was shot by someone who knew him with a pistol that has 'low-velocity' ammunition mostly used by bodyguards and security people.

Klatzow was one of the first investigators to suggest that Kebble had committed assisted suicide.

In the trial of Glen Agliotti in 2006, testimony revealed that Kebble sought the help of businessman Agliotti to assist in his assisted suicide.

Agliotti testified that Kebble's security chief, Clinton Nassif, had hired three hitmen to shoot and kill Kebble. This was at his request.

Gavin Watson

Gavid Watson. File Image: IOL

Gavin Watson was a businessman who served as CEO of African Global Operations, formerly known as Bosasa, from 2000 until 2019.

Bosasa provided services to government and specifically the correctional services sector.

During the Zondo Commission of Inquiry it was revealed that Bosasa had allegedly engaged in a corrupt relationship with multiple members of the ANC.

The company's former chief operating officer, Angelo Agrizzi, told the public at the commission that Bosasa had a deliberately corrupt relationship with the ANC and government officials.

He implicated Watson and many senior government officials and accused them of money laundering and bribery.

The company was liquidated in 2019, after the scandal broke.

On 26 August 2019 Watson died in a car accident when his car struck a pillar on a road near the O. R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

His family asked for a private pathology report and it was later discovered that Watson was in fact dead at the time of the accident.

His death still remains a mystery.