Self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife were arrested by the Hawks on Friday morning in Rustenburg on charges of fraud and money laundering.
Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed the arrest and said the case against the couple was linked to alleged offences of fraud and money laundering, as well as the contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA), which had been committed from 2015.
The contravention of the Act was in relation to Exchange Control Regulations relating to foreign currency of $1 147 200 (around R15m).
Mulaudzi said that the couple, who run several business enterprises in South Africa and abroad, were expected to appear before the Pretoria Commercial Crime Court on Monday.
According to a statement posted on Bushiri’s Facebook page, the arrest took place at 07:00 at the Sparkling Waters Hotel in Rustenburg.
“They took the Prophet and our mother Prophetess Mary Bushiri in handcuffs to Pretoria. They have charged our father with fraud and money laundering,” the statement on his page reads.
Earlier on Friday, the CRL Commission exonerated Bushiri from responsibility for the stampede at his Pretoria church, where three people died, saying the church had fully complied with safety regulations.
In April last year, tabloid publication Sunday World reported that Bushiri was apparently making so much money from his churches in South Africa that he was able to send R15m a month back to his home in Malawi.
Mulaudzi confirmed to the tabloid at the time that the Hawks had been investigating the pastor, but cautioned that the case was in its early stages and that he could not divulge or confirm any details.
The controversial prophet at that time told SABC News that he was not even aware that the police were investigating him and that he had only heard about the investigation through the media.
The “Major 1” as he is affectionately known by his followers, also kept social media abuzz in December 2017 for selling tables for a gala dinner at a cost of between R1 000 and R25 000.
Social media users found these prices ridiculously high and have taken to Facebook and Twitter to share their thoughts.
Bushiri has recently denied that his church demanded congregants to pay in order to have one-on-one sessions with him.