Prophet Shepherd Bushiri is on the run!
The Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church leader who is on bail in South Africa on two different charges of fraud and money laundering about K6 billion has jumped bail as the State prosecutors had feared.
In their closing argument, the state defended why it was opposing the bail application but not in a separate case when Bushiri was arrested in February 2019 to answer a different count of fraud and money laundering of about K0.8 billion.
The state said the amount (K5 billion) in the case at hand is higher and that the current case carries a higher sentence which would give the accuse more reasons to forfeit bail.
In her close argument, the State attorney highlighted that the increased penalty in the current case is a good motivation for the couple to not want to stand trial.
The State further fears that Bushiri and wife will easily escape if released on bail because they are multimillionaires who can easily forfeit the bail bond regardless of the amount.
The state further said the debt of over K80 million (R2m) that the couple has with his Sparkling Water Hotel as collateral is further motivation for them to escape.
The State fears that despite handing over their passports to the police, Bushiri and wife who have diplomatic passports can easily find a way to leave the country and claim to be diplomats at airports as has been the case before.
The court previously heard the Prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary Bushiri, do as they please at Lanseria Airport by lying that they are diplomats and that their luggage could not be searched as a result.
It was revealed in the State’s affidavit that Mary Bushiri confirmed lying that she had claimed to be a diplomat with diplomatic immunity in order to evade customs at the airport.
Bushiri is also said to have flagged his diplomatic passport to prevent airport staff from searching his luggage.
She further highlighted that one of Bushiri’s alleged accomplices, the co-director of Rising Estate which Major 1 allegedly used as conduit for fraud and money laundering made attempts to evade his arrest. He tried to skip the country 3 times and was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport while trying to flee.
The State Attorney concluded her closing argument against Bushiri’s bail application by saying that the accused will have more reasons to evade trial now than it were for them in their 2019 case.
Meanwhile, Bushiri’s attorney said the case against his client was neither serious nor strong and demanded to know the victims of the alleged fraud. Last week, the state refused to reveal identities of the complainants citing the pattern in Bushiri’s case and fears of witness intimidation.
The state defends why it is opposing the bail application now but not in the separate case of fraud and money laundering when #Bushiri was arrested in February 2019. The state says the amount are different (K5 billion vs K0.8 billion);
— Malawi24 (@Malawi24) November 2, 2020
In detailing his reason for rmping bail, Bushiri who claims to have the ability to on air and usually walks with a pack of bodyguards around him says he decided to jump bail because of several attempts on his life.
He called his escape from trial as “a tactical withdrawal” intended to “preserve” his life.
“There have been clear and evident attempts to have myself, my wife and my family killed and despite our several attempts to report to authorities, there has never been State protection. Our coming to Malawi, hence, is a tactical withdrawal from the Republic of South Africa solely meant to preserve our lives” said Bushiri.
He claims that jumping bail will enable him to live another day to stand trial but he says he is not “sure if we (him and his wife Mary Bushiri) will face trial”.
During his bail application hearing, Magistrate Thandi Theledi wanted the ECG first couple against any attempt to leave South Africa. She promised to revoke the bail is such an attempt were ever to be made.
The flamboyant prophet who has previously fought rape charges had also been barred from making any threatening statement or referring to the case during his church session.
He has been warned that should he refer to the case as persecution or intimidate the prosecutors or the witnesses, his bail will be revoked.
Ironically, among the list that Bushiri has outlined for his return to stand trial include not having his bail revoked.
“I want the South African government to assure us that our bail will not be revoked. Our right to fair trial entails that we have access to our lawyers all the time. Revocation of the bail defeats our right to fair trial and also exposes us to further security and safety challenges”, like a joke with total ignorance of what the Magistrate had warned him against, Bushiri said.
Bushiri has also threatened that unless the officers involved in investigating, arresting and prosecuting him and his wife recuse themselves, he will not make himself or his wife available for trial.
“I want the officers involved in investigating, arresting and prosecuting us to recuse themselves. As earlier said, this is the same team that I earlier lodged complaint against and, also, opened cases against. I won’t have a fair trial with their continued involvement.” he said in his 727 word statement.
Major 1, as he is fondly called, has listed a total of five conditions that must be met by the South African government if he is ever to return to stand his fraud, theft and money laundering charges.
He also has a looming immigration fraud related to how he obtained his South African permanent resident permit.
Prosecutors during his bail application feared that Bushiri had more reasons to jump bail in this K5 billion (R102 million) fraud and money laundering because of the overwhelming evidence they had against him and his wife.
He was bailed on 4 November 2020 after spending 14 nights in custody at the infamous Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre. Bushiri and his wife Mary were each ordered to pay total of about K10 million as bond, which the state said the prophet was willing to forfeit by escaping.
Major 1 maintains his innocence.
For a background on this story, click here