PASTOR and wife bust

A WELL-KNOWN Mpumalanga priest, his wife, and three other people have been arrested for operating a pyramid scheme running into millions of rands in the church building.

A WELL-KNOWN Mpumalanga priest, his wife, and three other people have been arrested for operating a pyramid scheme running into millions of rands in the church building.

Pastor Martin Visagie, 48, his wife Elaine, 39, Welnice Mostert, 24, Gregory Irvin Short, 43, and his wife Debra Lorraine Short, 42, of the Revival Center Ministries in Middelburg were arrested on 75 charges of fraud on Wednesday and yesterday.

The Mpumalanga organised crime unit's Captain Leonard Hlathi said hundreds of people took part in the scheme, investing their pension money and even selling their properties. Others applied for additional bonds on their houses in order to make quick money.

He said they were promised returns amounting to three time the amount they invested in the get-rich-quick scheme. The returns were allegedly paid out after three months of the investment.

He said the scheme grew bigger and bigger until Visagie could no longer afford to pay out investors. As a result they were forced to close the pyramid scheme about a year ago.

In August this year property belonging to the pastor-cum-businessman and worth about R10million was auctioned. Among the auctioned belongings were a Black Steers Restaurant in the Witbank Mall, the church building itself and a posh house in an up-market area of Middelburg.

Hlathi said investors decided to open fraud cases against Visagie and that led to his arrest.

During follow-up investigations it was discovered that they were not operating alone.

"The same Wednesday police arrested Welnice Mostert and Gregory Short," he said.

"The four appeared in the local magistrate's court on the same day (Wednesday) and were each released on R2000 bail."

He said investigators arrested Short's wife yesterday and she appeared in court shortly after her detention. She was also granted R2000 bail.

According to Hlathi the accused will appear together on 75 charges of fraud on January 19.

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