Malawian fugitive, Pastor Shepherd Bushiri, has handed himself over to law authorities in his country of origin, Malawi.
In a statement addressed to the Southern African Development Community, the leader of Enlightened Christian Gathering church says he will legally explain and defend his decision to flee South Africa for Malawi.
Bushiri , who faces fraud, corruption and money laundering charges, used Facebook last weekend to inform the world of his escape.
Bushiri denies having multiple passports with different names on them as purported by Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi when he addresses Parliament earlier this week.
The alleged fraudster claims he and his wife Mary have five passports each which were full but contained valid visas hence they still kept them.
He says he trusts Malawi’s legal system and feels protected by its Constitution. Bushiri added that he did not go to Malawi to seek political intervention, squashing assumptions of assistance from President Lazarus Chakwera who was in South Africa on Friday for a state visit.
Who are the Bushiris?
The Bushiris have stirred controversy for their flamboyant wealth and have been criticised for portraying false prophecy among other notorious spiritual leaders with mass followings.
Wealth and church empire:
The Bushiris have a major religious following in South Africa, being charismatic leaders who often claim to have spiritual healing powers.
Shepherd Bushiri’s church hosts a popular crossover service on New Years’ Eve annually at the FNB Stadium which tens of thousands of followers attend.
The Bushiris own a collection of luxury cars worth millions, which include a Bentley Bentayga, Aston Martin One-77 and Rolls Royce Black Badge. The couple also own a R5.5 million property at the Midstream Estate in Centurion and at least one private jet.
Bushiri has claimed to be a prophet with healing powers, saying he changed the fortunes of the impoverished, has cured people of HIV and made the blind see.
In 2017, social media users criticized the church leader when ticket prices to his “exclusive” gala dinner ranged between R1 000 and R25 000.
The Bushiris were arrested, among two others, in October on charges of fraud, money laundering and theft worth more than R102 million.
Earlier this month, the couple was ordered to hand over the title deed of their Midstream Estate home to the State. The Bushiris forfeited their passports and were banned from travelling outside South Africa.
Following their escape to Malawi, South African police have warned the couple to present themselves to the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Thursday or risk forfeiting their Midstream Estate property.
On Sunday, the South African government said that it had initiated the extradition process for Malawi to hand him over. -Additional reporting Sesona Mahlahla.