Self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri’s multimillion-rand private jet has been attached by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) – part of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) – amid allegations he fabricated loan agreement papers to acquire it.
News24 has seen two affidavits – one from a detective colonel attached to the Hawks and one from the SA Reserve Bank (SARB) – detailing how cash was used to pay for the jet.
Earlier this month, Bushiri and his wife Mary were charged with fraud, money laundering and the contravention of exchange control regulations. They have been released on R100 000 bail each and are set to appear in court again on May 10.
Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said that a preservation order was served on Bushiri on February 6 at the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.
“He has 14 days [from February 6] to enter an appearance if he intends to oppose the application for forfeiture,” he said. “If he fails to enter an appearance [to oppose] in terms of the order or to comply with the requirements, he will not be given notice of the application for a forfeiture order and will not be entitled to appear at the hearing of the application.”
This implies that he is left with just 48 hours to enter an appearance if he still wants to oppose the forfeiture of his private jet.
Mulaudzi said the Hawks’ investigation was at a “very sensitive stage” and that they have gathered so much information to nail Bushiri whom they strongly believe will be jailed at the end of his trial.
“There is a lot that we gained and we would not want to jeopardise the cooperation we have with the witnesses. We continue to receive magnitudes of information. We have a strong case with the current matter in court.”
The NPA confirmed the preservation order but declined to comment.
An affidavit deposed to by a Hawks investigator – which News24 has seen – states that Bushiri bought the aircraft for $1.25 million (R18 million) in November 2015.
However, last year, the central bank investigators helped the Hawks to probe the purchase of the aircraft.
According to investigators, Bushiri alleged that funds he used to secure the aircraft were obtained from a $1.25 million loan from Joint Aviation Resources (JAR) LLC and that he paid the money back.
A central bank investigator then requested bank statements. But he was unable to trace any transactions that matched the amount. It was then concluded that Bushiri might have provided false information to the department about how he obtained the funds. But in his affidavit, Bushiri disputed the allegations.
He maintained that the reports were not only factually untrue but that they were also “malicious as they are intended and designed to tarnish my good image”. “I’ve never exported funds [except for the nominal amounts admissible in terms of the foreign exchange control] or gold from the republic.
“All the relevant times when I travel from the republic, the South African police and immigration authorities conducted a thorough check on my person and all those accompanying me, which in itself would negate any export of funds or gold in that sense,” he said in the affidavit.
Bushiri added that his ministry acquired the Gulfstream from the National Airways Corporation at a price of $1.25 million. He said the funds for the payment of the aircraft were secured by a JAR loan.
“The ministry repaid the funds in South Africa to [JAR],” said the Malawian national. “The source of the repayment of the loan to JAR was church donations to the ministry. JAR will be in a position to provide proof it was fully paid.”