Shepherd Bushiri and wife to return to court in 2021 for fraud trial
The fraud and money laundering case against self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary has been postponed to 2021 for trial.
The Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) church leader and his wife appeared in the Pretoria high court virtually on Friday for their pretrial conference.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Lumka Mahajana said the trial date had been set from May 31 to June 18 next year.
The charismatic couple were arrested by the Hawks in February 2019 at the Sparkling Waters hotel in Rustenburg.
The Hawks’ case against the couple concerns alleged offences of fraud, money laundering and contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca).
According to the Hawks, the crimes were allegedly committed from 2015 in relation to exchange control regulations related to foreign currency in the amount of $1,147,200 (about R15.3m).
In a previous appearance, when the matter was initially postponed, Bushiri said in a statement released by the church that he was disappointed the court had granted the state a postponement to “get their house in order”.
When the matter was heard previously, the state asked for a postponement to next July, citing Covid-19 as the reason. Following arguments from both sides, the court then granted a pretrial conference to be held on Friday.
The couple heads the international church with thousands of followers, some of whom were present in court. They have since been released on bail of R100,000 each.
Bushiri informed his followers of the remand in a statement.
“As of today, the couple has appeared before the court for the fourth time hoping for trial and, just as it has been the case in the previous three appearances, the case has always been postponed at the behest of the state's stated reason of not being ready,” read the statement released by the church.
Bushiri said he was surprised when he appeared today as the judge did not conduct the pretrial, as he ordered the state to do on July 27.
“The pretrial was meant for the state to address him on the current status of each witness with regard to their fears to attend court due to Covid-19 and produce medical certificates where necessary. Instead, the judge simply requested the state to give him a new trial date.
“It is also worth mentioning that the state sent our lawyers a revised indictment 45 minutes before the court appearance.”
Bushiri said he will still co-operate with the courts until justice is served.