The Pretoria Magistrate’s Court in Johannesburg South Africa on Monday 2 November 2020, heard arguments for bail in the case against Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) founder and self-proclaimed Prophet Shepherd Bushiri, his wife Mary and three others.
The five spent yet another weekend in jail after their court appearance on Friday was postponed. They are charged with fraud and money laundering related to an investment scheme valued at R102 million.
In its head of arguments against the bail application, the state revealed that one suspect had attempted to leave the country on three occasions in October 2020, despite an ongoing 2019 money laundering case.
“It is of importance to state that the warrants of arrests for applicants 2 to 4 where obtained based on the fact that a prospect of a successful prosecution of all main suspects will be in jeopardy should one or more of them evade arrest.”
The state further argued that the mere supply of a title deed to the courts does not necessarily guarantee an accused’s’ intention to stand trial. Bushiri and his wife supplied the court with a deed to their Midstream property.
The state also made a submission that the over 200 million debt on their Sparkling Waters hotel is grounds to skip the country – contending that debt ridden property can easily be abandoned by individuals.
The Bushiri’s occupational ties argument was also slammed. The state argued that the family could access their congregants and followers anywhere in the world via modern technology.
The state also maintains that the Bushiris have more assets than they have disclosed which are not registered in their names or have been smuggled out of the country.
PRODUCE EVIDENCE OF SMUGGLED PROPERTY
In counter arguments, Bushiri’s legal representative advocate Annalie Van den Heever questioned the rationality of Bushiri being denied bail – after bail was granted in the 2019 case.
Van Heever pointed out that the state had conceded more charges had been added in the indictment that was served in November 2019 which she argues, should have induced the Bushiri’s to flee.
She also accused the state of relying on media articles as evidence of a Bentley and Maserati belonging to the couple that were reportedly smuggled to Malawi.
“ It is a common and known fact that if you leave this country’s borders with a vehicle, you have to have in your property, proof of ownership as well as your insurance documents. Those go through the immigration system and those are recorded.” She said
-Advocate Annalie Van den Heever
The magistrate is expected to rule on the bail application on Wednesday 4 November 2020.