Muslim cleric 'flees with R1m'

22 January 2014 - 02:21 By NASHIRA DAVIDS
Thousands of Muslim pilgrims arrive for the stoning of walls, in a ritual called "Jamarat," symbolising stoning the devil, in Mina near the Saudi holy city of Mecca, 20 December 2007. File photo.
Thousands of Muslim pilgrims arrive for the stoning of walls, in a ritual called "Jamarat," symbolising stoning the devil, in Mina near the Saudi holy city of Mecca, 20 December 2007. File photo.
Image: AFP/ROSLAN RAHMAN

Dozens of pilgrims were left in the lurch when a Muslim cleric, the owner of a travel agency specialising in hajj and umrah pilgrimages, allegedly disappeared on the eve of their departure with more than R1.4-million that they had paid him.

Thaabit Albertus said he and 17 members of his family had paid Faizel Karstens a total of about R306000 for the trip to Mecca.

But on the eve of their departure last month, Albertus received the news that Karstens was ill and the trip had been called off.

The family made an urgent application to the Cape Town High Court for an order that their travel documents be returned to them and that Karstens' bank account be frozen.

And this week they successfully applied for the cleric to be provisionally sequestrated.

In his affidavit, Albertus said that, after being told that Karstens had been hospitalised, he rushed to his business premises, where he found a number of people looking for him.

"They were obviously distraught; some were even crying," said Albertus.

Albertus said in court papers that Karstens had tried to sell his R1-million house .

"He is going into hiding ... [and] leaves me with no alternative but to conclude that he has absented himself from his home and business in an attempt to avoid repaying us," Albertus said.

Sulaiman Chotia, the family's lawyer, said more than 40 pilgrims had since joined the court application to have Karstens sequestrated. Many of them, he said, had struggled to raise the money for the pilgrimage.

"There are more [plaintiffs] coming out of the woodwork.

"There are other attorneys acting for other people as well," said Chotia.

Karstens could not be reached for comment.

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