Willah Mudolo, one of Shepherd Bushiri’s alleged accomplices, has accused the Department of Correctional Services of forging his signature on a document in which he confessed to having access to a cellphone while in custody.
This accusation formed part of Mudolo’s defence in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday where he was formally applying for bail.
Mudolo, his wife Zethu, self-proclaimed prophet Bushiri and his wife Mary as well as Landiwe Ntlokwana face multiple charges of fraud, theft and money laundering in relation to an investment scam that allegedly defrauded investors to the tune of R102 million.
Bushiri and his wife has since fled the country, returning to their homeland of Malawi after being granted bail by the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court in November.
Mudolo, a Zambian national, was the only accused still in custody after his wife and Ntlokwana were successful in their bail applications, which was heard at the same time as the Bushiris’ application.
On Monday, the State led evidence that Mudolo had access to two cellphones while in custody at Kgosi Mampuru Prison in Tshwane.
One of the chief investigators in the case testified Mudolo had signed a document admitting he had a cellphone which was being used to WhatsApp a number of people, including an unknown person who claimed to have an advocate that could help facilitate a bribe to get him out of prison.
Through his attorney, Mudolo submitted a supplementary affidavit where he said he refuted the allegations he had a cellphone while being held in custody.
“I deny that I ever signed this document, I wish to point out that my signature was forged,” his attorney said while reading the affidavit into the court record.
He added he would hire a handwriting expert to examine the document.
However, during cross examination, the investigating officer pointed out that in one of the WhatsApp exchanges found on the cellphone, Mudolo was called by his name.
The defence, without offering evidence, put it to the officer it was easy to fake messages.
It also pointed out the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria had ruled on the matter after an application was brought because Mudolo was transferred from the local remand centre to C-Max.
It was placed on record the move was reviewed and set aside after it was found to be unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid. The court also ordered that Mudolo be moved back to the local remand centre and have his remand detainee privileges restored.
The reasons for the order were not placed on record by the defence, but the State argued the order related to the second occasion that Mudolo was caught with a cellphone and it was a technical issue with the processes followed to place him into C-Max.
Mudolo, was in a communal cell with around 40 other prisoners, when he was allegedly caught with a cellphone. He was then transferred to a single cell which was believed to be more secure.
After allegedly being found in possession of another phone while in the single cell, he was then moved to C-Max.
Screenshots of one of the WhatsApp conversations were handed in as evidence, and detailed conversations about the court processes as well as the transfer of around R100 000.
The unknown person who was communicating with Mudolo, would call him “man of God” and said he was praying for Mudolo.
Mudolo, who called the person “man of God” as well, seemingly told him in one exchange he had strong attorneys and they had prepared well.
“We must now pray to the Almighty God,” Mudolo said. The person responded in text: “So without involving money, he wanted both me and him to visit u tomorrow. I think it won’t change ur perpetrations [sic] with ur attorneys. I’m also very confident in you to be released this Friday.”
It is not clear who the man was referring to when he said he and another man wanted to visit Mudolo.
The person then allegedly sent another message where it appeared he was talking about the possibility of bribing court officials.
“Maybe let’s see this Friday… But if things are not working out for ur best, rather use an advocate, but a black person who can mediate both (the judge and) the prosecutors of court 16, concerning the issue of bribery if its OK by you.
“This guy is an attorney, but he says he’s got advocates … who therefore hv a strong corrupt relationship with court 16,” the person said in another follow-up message.