Thandeka Moyo Court Reporter
A 77-YEAR-OLD fugitive rabbi who allegedly fled sex abuse charges in Israel has been deported after overstaying his visa in Zimbabwe.
Rabbi Eliezer Berland was yesterday fined $200 by Bulawayo magistrate Sibongile Msipa and ordered to leave the country after admitting he was an illegal immigrant.
Prosecutors said the mega rich cleric – whose lawyer claimed could fuel all government cars to escort him to the airport in a bid to avoid jail – had been living in a top Bulawayo hotel since December last year.
Caroline Matanga, for the State, said the cleric was given a three-month visa for “religious tourism” which expired on March 24.
Magistrate Msipa told Berland: “This court finds you guilty as charged and you must pay a fine of $200 or three months imprisonment.
“The court took into consideration that you’re aged 77 and you’re a first offender who pleaded guilty. Imprisonment is not suitable for a first offender so you should pay a fine of $200.”
Rabbi Berland was arrested on Monday at Holiday Inn in Ascot after his cover was blown by our sister paper, Sunday News.
He is believed to have flown into Zimbabwe by a private jet owned by one of his followers.
Dozens of his most loyal supporters had booked into several Bulawayo hotels and lodges to be close to their leader.
Berland, who heads one of the largest Jewish educational institutions in Jerusalem, allegedly escaped to Zimbabwe following accusations of abusing underage girls and sleeping with numerous married women.
Several Israeli women told investigators that the rabbi sexually harassed or raped them.
The allegations came to light in 2012 when the newspaper, Israel Hayom, reported an incident in which one of Berland’s students encountered him at home standing beside a naked woman.
His supporters expressed anger over the report and the individual who leaked the story to the media was later violently attacked.
After police opened an investigation, Berland fled Israel and spent time in the United States, Italy and Switzerland. He then left for Morocco, settling in Marrakesh.
In November 2013, Berland and his students were ordered to leave Morocco after King Mohammed VI personally ordered their expulsion from the country after a Moroccan newspaper published an article profiling the rabbi and mentioning the circumstances under which he fled Israel.
Berland is thought to have left Morocco for Cairo, Egypt.
He reportedly bought tickets for various destinations to confuse pursuers leaving them unsure whether he was staying in Zimbabwe, Venezuela or South Africa.