The courtroom battle for the freedom of the Bushiris


THE state has tabled a compelling case on why religious leader Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary, should not be granted bail and kept in custody until the finalisation of his R120-million fraud and money laundering case.

Bushiri, his wife, Willah Mudolo, Zethu Mudolo and Landiwe Ntlokwana were applying for bail after their arrest in connection with a suspected R120 ponzi scheme through which members of the Enlightened Christians Gathering were defrauded.

In the Pretoria magistrate’s case, the state argued that Bushiri was a flight risk who had, before his arrest, attempted, on three occasions, to board a flight despite standing arrangements to hand himself to the police. The prosecution also argued that Bushiris do not have sufficient familial or occupational ties with South Africa and the assets they have listed in their bail application have been alienated, belonged to registered in the names of companies or other individuals.

The court also heard that the Bushiris have listed properties and business in Malawi. The state had also discovered other properties in foreign countries. This, the state said, could be motivation for the couple to leave the country.

Advocate Anneline van den Heever

The prosecutor, who cannot be named for security reasons, also argued that the Bushiris were self-proclaimed millionaires and could afford to forfeit bail, no matter the amount set by the court.

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The court was also asked not to place any regard to an earlier decision of a separate court, the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court, where the Bushiris were granted bail in a case where they are charged with fraud and money laundering. The charges relate to an alleged violation of the Reserve Bank Act when the couple paid $1.2-million ( approximately R20-million) to purchase an aircraft.

Advocate Anneline van den Heever, for Bushiri and his wife, disputed the state’s assertion that his client was a flight risk. “There was an arrangement that accused number one and accused number two will hand themselves over. We also found out later that accused number three was sought. We tendered, from the word go, that we will hand over all three, the applicants. Was it not for the fact that the investigating team, despite the conversation myself and my attorney had with them, did not keep their word, and wait for us, to also hand applicant number two over, all the applicants would have been voluntarily handed themselves over,” Kriel said.

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Kriel also told the court that the state’s submission in motivation of the denial of bail, in particular on the couple’s assets and relocation of their two luxury cars, were misleading.

Advocate Thabang Mothapo, for Zethu Mudolo, argued that her continued detention of Mary Bushiri had a negative impact on her two minor children, one of whom was 9-months old and was still breastfeeding. The lawyer asked the court to release her on bail of R20 000.

Magistrate Thandi Theledi postponed the matter to Wednesday for a decision on bail.

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