PRETORIA, South Africa – Prophet Shepherd Bushuri and his wife, Mary, were seized by South African police on Friday in a fraud and money laundering investigation involving over R15 million, his church confirmed.
Bushiri, the leader of the Enlightened Christian Gathering Church (ECG), was led away in handcuffs with his wife after South Africa’s elite investigations unit, the HAWKS, raided his Sparkling Waters Hotel in Rustenburg just after 7AM.
“He has been detained and is being questioned by the Hawks in Silverton, Pretoria,” the church later confirmed in a statement.
The church released no further details about the nature of the charges. In April last year, newspaper reports said the Hawks were investigating Bushiri for money laundering over claims that he was sending an estimated R15 million a month to Malawi, his country of birth.
The money is allegedly transported out of South Africa in Bushiri’s private jet and other vehicles.
At the time, Hawks spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi said: “The matter has been brought to our attention. However, it is still in its infancy stage. It is against our policy to divulge information on any of our investigations.”
It was a day of mixed emotions for Bushiri, whose church was cleared on Friday of any responsibility over a deadly December 28 stampede that left three people dead, and 17 others injured.
The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, a constitutional body, held a two-day hearing this week and concluded that the church fully complied with safety regulations.
A storm hit Pretoria that night, leading to panic among congregants. A stampede followed in one of the halls where people were gathered for an 20:00 service.
The Commission also threw out demands for Bushiri to be deported back to Malawi, saying such a finding would be “discriminatory.”