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A FUGITIVE rabbi, who fled Israel after he was accused of abusing underage girls and sleeping with numerous married women, has finally been arrested in Bulawayo.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, 72, who is head of Shuvu Banim, one of the largest Jewish educational institutions in Jerusalem, has for a number of weeks been living in various upmarket lodges in Bulawayo.

But luck ran out for him Monday evening when police raided his hideout – Room 301 Holiday Inn in Bulawayo – to arrest him.

Berland was caught with a handful of faithfuls from Israel after cops got a tip off about his whereabouts.

He is being charged with remaining in Zimbabwe without a permit following the expiry of his visitor’s visa.

Berland pleaded guilty to the crime before magistrate Sibongile Msipa and was remanded in custody to this Wednesday.

His lawyer, a practitioner with Cheda and Partners, said his client was an internationally recognised religious leader of ill-health and taking medication and free from any criminal activity in Zimbabwe.

Prosecutor Caroline Matanga told the court of how on April 7, in the evening, cops from the Border Control Unit raided Room 301 at Holiday Inn Hotel.

Upon request to produce his passport and permit, it was discovered that his period of stay in Zimbabwe lapsed on March, 24 2014 and he was arrested.

It emerged that Rabbi Berland had been leading worship in a synagogue in Khumalo suburb since his arrival in the country December last year under the guise of religious tourism.

Back home, several Israeli women have alleged sexual harassment and rape by Berland.

The allegations came to light 2012 when an Israeli newspaper reported an incident in which one of his students caught the priest at home, standing beside a naked woman, it is said.

His followers were angered by the report and went on to attack the person who leaked the story to the media.

Allegations are that Rabbi Berland fled as soon as police opened investigations.

He has gone on to settle in the United States, Italy and Switzerland before moving to Marrakesh in Morocco.

He and his students were ordered to leave Morocco by King Mohammed VI in November 2013.

Berland is thought to have left Morocco for Cairo, Egypt. He reportedly bought tickets for various destinations to confuse pursuers, as to whether he was staying in Zimbabwe, Venezuela or Johannesburg, South Africa, where he was reported to have been taken in by a relative.

Police are still investigating his entourage, among them a man believed to be a wealthy businessman whose private jet they were using.

It is suspected the businessman has business interests in Zimbabwe where he has underhand dealings with some locals, one of them being former Zifa CEO Henrieta Rushwaya.

Source : New Zimbabwe