Mene, mene, tekel! The writing is now on the wall for controversial Prophet Shepherd Bushiri who is racing against time in South Africa where his private jet has been seized.
The televangelist who is also answering alleged fraud and money laundering charges together with his wife Mary Bushiri has less than 72 hours to oppose the seizure, failure of which he risks forfeiting the jet.
Affidavits – one from a detective colonel attached to the Hawks (South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation – DPCI) and one from the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) – reveal that the jet has been seized amid allegations that the televangelist fabricated loan agreement papers to acquire it.
The jet has been attached by the South Africa’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi who confirmed that the jet has been attached, said Bushiri has until February 20 to oppose the application for forfeiture. Mulaudzi said a preservation order was served on Bushiri on February 6 at the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.
“He has 14 days [from February 6] to enter an appearance if he intends to oppose the application for forfeiture.
“If he fails to enter an appearance [to oppose] in terms of the order or to comply with the requirements, he will not be given notice of the application for a forfeiture order and will not be entitled to appear at the hearing of the application,” Mulaudzi has been quoted as saying by News24.
Mulaudizi said the Hawks’ investigation was at a “very sensitive stage” and that the department has a strong case against Bushiri and his wife on alleged fraud and money laundering.
“There is a lot that we gained and we would not want to jeopardise the co-operation we have with the witnesses. We continue to receive magnitudes of information. We have a strong case with the current matter in court,” he said.
Bushiri and his wife who had spent 5 days behind bars were granted a K5 million bail each and are expected to appear in court again on May 10 for fraud and money laundering.
An affidavit deposed to the self-acclaimed prophet by a Hawks investigator states that Bushiri purchased the aircraft for K0.9 billion (US$1,25m) in November 2015.
According to investigators, Bushiri alleged that funds he used to secure the aircraft were obtained from a loan for $1,25m from Joint Aviation Resources LLC (JAR) and that he paid the money back. However, JAR shutdown Bushiri saying the company was not in a loan business.
An investigator from SARB then requested bank statements. But he was unable to trace any transactions that matched the amount.
It was then concluded that Bushiri might have provided false information to the department about how he obtained the funds.
But in his affidavit, Bushiri disputed the allegations, saying the reports were not only factually untrue but were also “malicious…intended and designed to tarnish my good image”.
Bushiri added that his ministry acquired the Gulfstream from the National Airways Corporation at a price of $1,25m. He said the funds for the payment of the aircraft were secured by a loan from Joint Aviation Resources.
“The ministry repaid the funds in South Africa to [JAR]. The source of the repayment of the loan to JAR was church donations to the ministry. JAR will be in a position to provide proof that it was fully paid,” said Bushiri who ironically has always maintained that church offerings and donations can not afford the lifestyle he leads.
“A jet ranges from 35 million dollars, I don’t think a church can raise that money for a jet” he told Malawian media in January 2016 soon after buying the jet.
After flaunting three luxurious state of the art cars, he flamboyantly challenged: “Now tell me me which offering in this world can buy those cars at once… I finance governments”.