A banker who set up his own evangelical church asked his congregation to pray for a miracle on the day he was imprisoned for illegally importing slave labour to renovate his luxury home on the Isle of Man.
Pastor Pieter Van Rooyen, 46, head of the Life Church Worldwide, protested his innocence at the island's court, insisting that he had been an unwitting victim. However, High Bailiff Michael Moyle told him yesterday that he was an intelligent man who knew what he was doing and jailed him for three months.
Van Rooyen, from South Africa, had admitted at an earlier hearing to helping to breach the Immigration Act by giving five South African workers a fake letter of invitation to the Isle of Man.
Stuart Nedale, the prosecutor, said that the former financial adviser to Barclays Bank simply wanted a cheap deal and paid the workers "slave wages". Before police and immigration authorities raided Van Rooyen's home in Douglas, the capital, the men were working 12 hours a day, six days a week, for £1.36 an hour.
Laurence Keenan, Van Rooyen's lawyer, said that his client only learned that the wages were low from the police.
Mr Moyle said: "I accept it might be argued that you were not the prime mover, but you were not just a minor player. Without the letter, the matter of bringing in South African workers would have failed." He also ordered Van Rooyen to pay £1,500 costs.
Van Rooyen's church, an offshoot of the Life Church Worldwide founded in Folkestone, has a congregation of about 100 and claims 102,000 unbelievers go to hell daily.
Van Rooyen has denounced press coverage of the affair, calling the media "the mouthpiece of the devil himself". He said that his congregation was standing with him "in faith for a miracle from God Almighty".