A self-proclaimed “prophet” and controversial millionaire has been arrested in Malawi after handing himself over to police following his mysterious return from South Africa, where he was on trial for fraud and money laundering charges.
The incident last week has threatened a diplomatic rift between the two southern African countries, with Pretoria reportedly furious that Shepherd Bushiri and his wife had managed to leave the country while out on bail.
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“The couple is indeed in our custody. Currently, we are taking statements from the Bushiris. We will then take them to courts,” Malawi police spokesperson James Kadadzera told dpa news agency on Wednesday.
Bushiri and his wife, Mary, will remain in custody until brought before a court, according to one of their lawyers, Khumbo Soko.
Bushiri, a millionaire, said at the weekend that he had fled South Africa because he feared for his life.
“He is not a fugitive,” said Bushiri’s spokesman Ephraim Nyondo.
“He is in Malawi to seek justice, which he believes he cannot be accorded in South Africa.”
The couple were known for their lavish lifestyle in South Africa. Bushiri made his wealth through donations from followers of his Enlightened Christian Gathering church in Pretoria. He also had huge investments in the mining, telecommunications and luxury sectors.
South Africa is scrambling to establish how Bushiri escaped from the country and has initiated legal proceedings to secure his extradition.
“The Bushiri matter has been very concerning to all of us,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told local news channel ENCA.
Ramaphosa said he was expecting a “detailed report on the whole Bushiri saga … then we’ll see what action needs to be taken because it should never have happened the way it did”.
“We are going to take action, that’s for sure,” he said.