Pastor Sydney Mwandu allegedly conned a European businessman out of nearly half a million Kwacha
By Chanda Kristensen
A LUSAKA pastor allegedly deceived a Danish businessman he befriended in church when he proposed that the two start a truck business to transport mineral ore from the copper mines to refinery plants on the Copperbelt.
Senior pastor Sydney Mwandu sweet-talked fellow born-again Christian, Mikkel Michelsen, into buying a Skip Truck, which would be the core of their newly-established company, Trans-Global Logistics. Michelsen paid for the truck and sent thousands of Kwacha to pastor Mwandu’s bank account at Stanbic bank so that the pastor could clear the truck from Walvis Bay in Namibia, drive it to the Copperbelt, and maintain it for business. The truck was originally bought in the United Kingdom.
Pastor Mwandu came up with the idea to start the truck business in 2015 when he visited Denmark and stayed with Michelsen and his family in Risskov, an affluent residential area in Aarhus, the second-biggest city in Den-mark.
The two men signed a business contract which the Daily Nation is in possession of. It was agreed the profits would be shared equally between the two partners, and pastor Mwandu would send Michelsen’s share of the profit in Zambia to Michelsen’s bank account in Denmark.
“I was to buy one or more trucks that would be working in the mines, and Sydney would manage it on the ground in Zambia,” Michelsen told the Daily Nation. He further encountered how pastor Mwandu returned to Zambia and the communication between them continued on WhatsApp. They finally agreed on buying a yellow DAF CF75 truck from the UK. “I paid a total of 400,000 Kwacha,” Michelsen recalls, “half was sent to the UK to purchase the actual truck and ship it, the other half to Sydney in Zambia for border clearance, maintenance, and future company costs.”
Truck cleared and multiple payments to Pastor’s account
On 18 September 2015, Pastor Mwandu informed Michelsen in a WhatsApp message that he had cleared the truck at Walvis Bay, paid customs duty to the Zambia Revenue Authority and was driving the truck to Lusaka, and later the Copperbelt, in order to get the business running.
Michelsen was thrilled. “Hello. That’s good news…” he replied in a WhatsApp message, which the Daily Nation has seen.
Soon after, pastor Mwandu came up with truck maintenance and repair excuses as the reason why the business had not yet started. He conned Michelsen into sending more money, which the Dane did, through multiple payments to pastor Mwandu’s Lusaka bank account. In today’s value, the money amounts to K580, 000.
Seeing that the process was going slowly from Mwandu’s side in Lusaka, Michelsen traveled for the first time to Zambia in February 2016 in order to speed things up. He stayed with pastor Mwandu at his rented house in Kabwata, and the two men traveled to Chingola together to check on the truck, while at the same time attending to diverse church activities.
“Sydney came up with different excuses as to why we could not see the truck. I returned home to Denmark without seeing the truck. I was disappointed,” an evidently frustrated Michelsen said.
Pastor Sold Dane’s Truck and Pocketed the Money
It had then been six months since the clearance, and suspicious Michelsen figured the business wouldn’t run. He then suggested to pastor Mwandu that they sell the truck and pastor Mwandu returned the money for selling the truck, as well as the remaining amount earlier sent for maintenance. However, pastor Mwandu stopped responding to messages and phone calls from Michelsen.
“It took months and months of patience and hundreds of messages. Even calls,” remembers Michelsen. Daily Nation has seen some of the messages exchanged between the two men. In one of the WhatsApp messages, Michelsen wrote to Mwandu:
“I can see you’re reading my messages. I think the time has come for you to finally transfer the money. You have delayed over this, and it’s almost six months now. Can we agree?”
Still, the pastor kept quiet. Michelsen has since discovered that pastor Mwandu sold the truck to a Mr. Tembo from Kitwe. Highly placed sources have told the Daily Nation that the pastor is a serial crook, who allegedly makes a living conning other people. It is alleged that the pastor used the same truck bought by Michelsen to con a Lusaka woman, whose identity is known to the Daily Nation, to convince her into investing in a government contract deal.
Apart from allegedly living a life of a con-man, a copy of pastor Mwandu’s passport which the Daily Nation has seen lists his occupation as ‘Pastor’. He also has a Facebook page with nearly 3,000 followers. On his personal page, the senior pastor writes that he is studying economics at the University of Zambia. He also writes that he attended the Danish Pentecostal Bible College.
“I trusted Sydney. I thought we were friends. He was a pastor and man of God. I did not suspect he would cheat me,” Michelsen said in an interview with the Daily Nation.
Urges Local Police to Pick up the Case
Michelsen tried to report the alleged crook-pastor through the website of the Zambia Police. However, he did not know where to start from. Unlike the Danish Police, the Zambia Police website has no online case-reporting services.
“I’m in Denmark. Helpless and not knowing what to do. It’s so frustrating,” Michelsen said in despair, “I would be very happy and grateful if Zambian police were to follow this up. Sydney cannot continue to cheat people.”
The Dane met pastor Mwandu for the first time in September 2014 in Denmark, when a Danish Pentecostal church invited the pastor to preach in the Scandinavian country for a few weeks. Pastor Mwan- du gave a sermon in a small Pentecostal church in Aarhus, and Michelsen was coincidentally among the people in the congregation. The two born-again Christians immediately established a friendship, and in November 2014, pastor Mwandu returned to Denmark, where Michelsen arranged for him to preach in the State church of the Kingdom of Denmark.
The friendship progressed. Together with other members of the Pentecostal church in Denmark, Michelsen often helped pastor Mwandu financially while he was in Den-mark. For example, the Danes gave pastor Mwandu 8,000 Danish Kroner, an equivalent of K15,000 today, to buy a return ticket to Zambia, since he had told them that he only had a one-way ticket to Denmark, where he came on a student visa to study at Mariager Bible College. Michelsen also wired a gift of K40,000 directly to the pas- tor’s church in Lusaka.
“I am not complaining about helping him. It’s normal in our church to help the less privileged,” Michelsen said during the interview, “it’s just sad that he betrayed our friendship. I thought we were friends. Friends do not let their friends down.”
Playing with Victim’s Baby
Pastor Mwandu was last invited to preach in Denmark in 2015. He visited different churches in Danish towns, including Aarhus, where he stayed with Michelsen’s wife and their baby boy, who was nine months old then. That was the time when the pastor made the supposed business proposal. According to Michelsen, there was no indication that the pastor was a fraud.
“He was very cheerful and played with our baby who was 9 months old at the time,” Michelsen told the Daily Nation, “our baby had a nursery book with Sydney’s picture in
it, and was always pointing at it, saying ‘my African friend… my African friend…’”
Michelsen adds that the family has since removed the pastor’s picture from their child’s nursery book. As for the pastor, Michelsen has only one thing to say:
“Well, you actually might say I’m a stupid businessman,” he says, revealing a slight humour in him despite the pain he feels of having been conned, and then continues on a serious note: “I would like to see justice. This has to come out so that I can warn other people who might get duped. I hope the Zambian police get him one day.”
A Daily Nation team that visited the pastor”s home in Chelstone, Lusaka, was sent away.