Shepherd Bushiri's co-accused 'tried to flee to Dubai' three times: Hawks

Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary during an earlier court appearance in SA. File photo.
Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary during an earlier court appearance in SA. File photo.
Image: Alon Skuy/Sunday Times

Willah Mudolo, the only co-accused of self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri who remains behind bars, allegedly tried to flee SA three times for Dubai despite knowing there was a pending court case against him.

Col Daniel Marais from the Hawks on Monday told the Pretoria magistrate's court how the Zambian citizen, who was in SA illegally, tried to flee the country on September 21, October 13 and October 16.

Marais told the court that each time Mudolo tried to leave, he received an alert on his cellphone about an airport check-in.

On the first occasion, Marais said, after receiving the alert, he contacted Mudolo’s lawyer from BDK attorneys who said he would speak to Mudolo. On the second occasion, he again informed Mudolo’s lawyer and he abandoned his travel plans.

The third attempt resulted in his arrest at the airport on October 17 shortly after authorities had arrested his wife Zethu, a co-accused in the matter, at their residence.

It was after this third “escape bid” that Mudolo’s initial attorney allegedly told Marais he would no longer be representing him in court.

The court also heard how, while behind bars, the department of correctional services allegedly found three cellphones in his cell at the Kgosi Mampuru prison in Pretoria. One of them contained incriminating evidence, including talk of allegedly bribing court officials.

The court also heard how Mudolo, who claimed to have married his wife in England, also lied about the marriage. Marais said there was no documentation found to support claims of their marriage.

And the court also heard that Mudolo initially lied about his age. He held two passports – one reflecting his date of birth as August 25 1978 while another stated 1980. He used the documents interchangeably. 

Mudolo had provisionally chosen to not apply for bail when he appeared alongside his wife, the Bushiri couple and Londiwe Ntlokwana. They were granted bail.

Now Mudolo is seeking bail, adding that he intends to plead not guilty. He launched a fresh bail application last week after changing legal representatives.

“I intend to plead not guilty and will provide evidence to the state that any and all of the funds paid into the business account of Rising Estate (Pty) Ltd, without my knowledge but on instruction of Mr Shepherd Bushiri, was repaid to the nominated account of Mr Shepherd Bushiri and various beneficiaries,” he said.

Mudolo, who was joined by his wife and Ntlokwana in the dock, is hoping that pledging his multimillion-rand property will lead to the court granting him bail. The Sandhurst property is said to be worth from R23m to R25m.

“The bond registered over the property for R10m has been paid off and I intend to pledge the premises as security for my bail,” he added.

But this may not work in Mudolo’s favour as the Bushiris, who had paid R400,000 in bail and given their house as security, fled the country after being released and are now in Malawi.

SA is trying to get them extradited to face charges of fraud, theft and money laundering involving about R100m.

The Bushiris were expected to appear at the Lilongwe high court in Malawi on Monday.

On Mudolo, Marais told the court that he was a risk because he had access to vast sums of cash which he could use to escape. He added that Mudolo was well-known and seemingly connected, having previously boasted about being the next Zambian president. 

Marais said Mudolo had a house in Zambia and had strong ties to the UK.

The bail application continues. 

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