By Penelope Paliani-Kamanga
Blantyre- Malawi’s Enlightened Christian Gathering Church leader, renowned Prophet Shepherd Bushiri together with his wife prophetess Mary, were last week arrested by the Hawks for alleged fraud, money laundering and contravention of the Prevention of Organized Crime Act.
The pair has since pleaded not guilty and has been released on bail.
Hawks spokesperson, Hangwani Mulaudzi, confirmed the arrest and said the case against the couple was linked to alleged offences of fraud and money laundering, as well as the contravention of the Prevention of Organized Crime Act (POCA), which had been committed from 2015.
The contravention of the Act was in relation to Exchange Control Regulations relating to foreign currency of US$1,147,200 (around R15m).
Mulaudzi said the couple, who run several business enterprises in South Africa and abroad, appeared before the Pretoria Commercial Crime Court on Monday.
According to a statement posted on Bushiri's Facebook page, the arrest took place at 07h00 at the Sparkling Waters Hotel in Rustenburg.
"They took the Prophet and our mother Prophetess Mary Bushiri in handcuffs to Pretoria. They have charged our father with fraud and money laundering," the statement on his page read.
Earlier on Friday, the CRL Commission had exonerated Bushiri from responsibility for the stampede at his Pretoria church, where three people died, saying the church had fully complied with safety regulations.
In April last year, tabloid publication Sunday World reported that Bushiri was apparently making so much money from his churches in South Africa that he was able to send R15m a month back home in Malawi.
Mulaudzi confirmed to the tabloid at the time that the Hawks had been investigating Bushiri, but cautioned that the case was in its early stages and that he could not divulge or confirm any details.
The controversial prophet at that time told the SABC News that he was not even aware that the police were investigating him and that he had only heard about the investigation through the media.
The couple, who run several business enterprises in South Africa and abroad, appeared before the Pretoria Commercial Crime Court on Monday.
Bushiri, in a packed courtroom, declared that he was innocent and that he was "happily married" and not involved in money laundering, organised crime or fraud.
That was the thrust of his affidavit, read out in the Specialized Crimes Court in Pretoria where he and his wife Mary applied for bail on Wednesday.
The couple sat together in the small courtroom and the gallery was filled with family members. They looked unfazed as their legal representative, Advocate Johan Hattingh, read from the affidavit.
In the affidavit, Bushiri said his family is renting property in Midrand. The couple is originally from Malawi but was granted permanent residency in SA.