Nigerian-born televangelist, Pastor Tim Omotoso, has been denied bail by the Magistrate’s Court at Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
The founder of the Jesus Dominion International church, Durban, has been held since April 20 over accusations of child sex abuse and human trafficking.
Delivering the ruling, Magistrate Thandeka Mashiyi said the pastor whose family are all UK nationals, faced a sentence of at least life imprisonment.
“His family, wife and children are all United Kingdom citizens, his church has international branches which he visits from time to time, he is regarded as an illegal immigrant [and] there is nothing tying the applicant to South Africa,” Mashiyi said.
Omotoso is also accused of using fraudulent travel documentation.
Mashiyi added: “Based on the strength of the State’s case, the gravity of the offences, as well as if convicted, the applicant faces very lengthy sentences.
“I find that there is a likelihood that if he is released on bail he might attempt to flee and evade his trial.”
The case’s investigating officer, warrant officer Peter Plaatjies, testified against the pastor.
He said senior members of the minister’s church would draw ‘vulnerable’ girls aged 13-15 into the church and have them perform sexual acts with him.
The pastor is charged with having trafficked more than 30 girls and women who were part of his nationwide church network.
He allegedly sexually abused the trafficked girls at a house in Umhlanga, near Durban.
Evidence was given suggesting Omotoso had the means to intimidate victims and witnesses and provoke them not to testify against him.
His child victims were reportedly told not to tell anyone what had happened or they would be ‘cursed and die’.
Mashiyi said: ‘I am taking into account that there is a public outcry about the explosion of these crimes of human trafficking, rape and sexual assault on young girls and women.’
Outside the court, Omotoso’s supporters from his church prayed for him, while his opponents celebrated the bail denial, calling it a “victory to the nation and to the society at large”
The case has now been postponed until July 21.