A well-known preacher in South Africa has been hauled in front of a judge over allegations that he committed fraud related to the foreign exchange markets.
Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary are accused of various charges, including money laundering and fraud. They were arrested and taken into custody on Friday of last week.
They also stand accused of breaking the country’s Prevention of Organised Crime Act, or POCA.
Bushiri, who is the leader of the Enlightened Christian Gathering Church, and his wife apparently have a number of commercial enterprises in place in the country and also around the world.
According to reports on the South African news website TimesLIVE, a representative of the local police force, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, claims that the crimes happened in 2015 and onwards.
They apparently relate to breaches of exchange control regulations, and the total sum in question amounts to $1,147,200 of foreign currency.
The case has become a high profile media incident in South Africa, due in large part to the unusual occupation of the defendant.
Bushiri managed to get hundreds of people to come along and support him at his court hearing in the South African city of Pretoria, which took place on Monday morning.
The presence of another pastor in the story has also added to the alleged forex fraud intrigue. Paseka “Mboro” Motsoeneng, who was formerly an enemy of Bushiri and made several public pronouncements against him, has now spoken out in favour of Bushiri.
In a strange move and one which may be scrutinised in the course of the investigations into alleged forex fraud, Bushiri publicly donated one million South African Rand to Mboro as part of their making-up process.
This sum is equivalent to almost $75,000 US dollars or over £55,000 British pounds.
“Respect your leader because the name that matters is his name. Your father will always be your father”, Motsoeneng is reported to have told the crowd of Bushiri’s supporters on Monday.
According to local press, supporters of Bushiri have denounced the forex fraud allegations as “petty”.
“He has changed my life in an amazing way. We are here with spiritual intentions. If he is not released, we will keep on praying that God will intervene. We are not moved by this petty arrest”, said one.
“All the prophets in the Bible received similar treatment. We are not moved by that, we are standing boldly and saying God is making a move”, they added.
The case is unusual in terms of the characters in its story and the twists and turns of how it has played out, but foreign exchange fraud is generally very common in South Africa.
Late last year, a leading South African media personality named Sizwe Dhlomo took to social media to educate people about what he perceived were online scams in which “desperate” people were having their money taken from them.
The intervention sparked a debate in the country about whether or not foreign exchange trading is a legitimate means of making money – and what risks it poses.