Cleric sequestrated in R5m Umrah scandal

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Copy of ca p8 mecca file 2 done AP Mecca is visited by millions of Muslim pilgrims a year. A Cape Town Umrah operator is accused of failing to deliver after more than a hundred pilgrims paid him to book their trips. Photo: Amr Abil

Cape Town -

A trustee is to be appointed to take control of the estate of Sheikh Faizel Karstens in an attempt to recover the lost pilgrim funds he allegedly took.

The Muslim cleric was accused of taking almost R1 million in pilgrims’ travel money, leaving several families stranded.

The Western Cape High Court on Friday made final a provisional sequestration order against Karstens, the owner of Al Faisal Travel and Tours, a Lansdowne travel agency specialising in Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.

He was initially taken to court by Thaabit Albertus and a group of relatives, who claimed in court papers that he owed them and other families, who have since joined the application, nearly R978 000.

It emerged in court, however, that Karstens was believed to owe much more - about R5m - to creditors.

In an affidavit, Albertus said that following a change in their itinerary, he and his family were to embark on Umrah on December 24 after paying Karstens over R305 000 in total.

The day before, they had been unable to reach him by cellphone and when they called his home, were told he was in hospital. A number of “distraught” people had been “left stranded” by Karstens and his agency, he said.


Requesting a postponement, Karstens’s lawyer, Sadick Nacerodien, said if Karstens was sequestrated it could mean the families ending up worse off than if they had waited a week or two.

Advocate Jannie van der Merwe, acting for the families, said the court proceedings were not just about these families’ claims; a trustee needed to be appointed to look after the interests of all Karstens’ creditors.

“It’s not just this R1m. It’s somewhere in excess of R5m.”

Judge Dumisani Zondi refused the postponement and granted an order making Karstens’ sequestration final. - Cape Times

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