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Senior Gov’t Officials to Stay in Custody as Appeal is Rejected  

by Edmund Kagire
8:05 pm

Caleb Rwamuganza

The bail appeal of Senior government officials who are accused of conspiracy to mismanage public funds, causing the government a loss of over Rwf2bn has been turned down by Gasabo Intermediate Court, ruling that Caleb Rwamuganza and co. will remain in jail.

Rwamuganza, who is the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and other high-ranking government officials are accused of flouting tender procedures to cause a loss to the taxpayer by prompting the government to purchase a building at a price higher than its actual cost.

PS Rwamuganza is accused alongside Godfrey Kabera, the Director-General in the Ministry of Finance, Eric Serubibi, the former Director-General of Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) and Christian Rwakunda, who was Deputy Director-General in Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB) until recently appeared before Gasabo Intermediate Court.

During a bail appeal hearing on Tuesday at Gasabo Intermediate Court, the judge ruled that Rwamuganza, Rwakunda and businessman Aloys Rusizana, should all remain in custody, dismissing the grounds of their appeal and the security provided by Rusizana.

Rusizana is the owner of the disputed building located in Kacyiru, while the other co-accused is Bonaventure Munyabugingo, a private property valuer, who is accused of conspiring with the accused to allocate a price to the building that was higher than its actual price by over Rwf2bn.

The court ruled that Rwamuganza, Rwakunda, Serubibi, Rusizana and the other defendants remain in custody, after finding that the grounds of their appeal were unfounded.

The defendants had filed an appeal against a decision by Kacyiru Primary Court to deny them provision release, building on a mistake in the court verdict which seemed to give a future date for their detention, thereby arguing that they were illegally detained.

The defendants’ lawyers argued that court documents indicate that the decision to remand them was made on August 23, 2020, which is due next month, but it emerged that the court registrar in the previous hearing was supposed to write “June 23, 2020,” the day the decision was made.

The court said that a mistake in writing does not provide strong grounds to release the accused, adding that there are reasons to believe that releasing them would jeopardize the case, considering that businessman Rusizana continues to deny that there was a conspiracy to set the price between himself and the officials.

In their decision,  Judges said that after assessing each of the defendant’s culpability, they found strong reasons to believe that the decision to award Rusizana the deal was not done in a competitive manner and he cannot deny his involvement in the process.

Rusizana denied his complicity in determining the price of the building but court ruled that the fact that there were consultations to fix the price that means that Rusizana too was involved.

Rusizana posted a bail security of Rwf5.4 billion, but it was turned down by the court, saying that he did not provide evidence that it has not been mortgaged or staked elsewhere.

On his part, Rwakunda, who was the Permanent Secretary in MININFRA, said that when the agreement was reached to buy the building, he was no longer part of the talks. He requested for provision release on medical grounds. He had also provided security of Rwf100m which the court said was small compared to the contested amount in the trial.

His reasons were rejected by court saying that they were not convincing enough, stating that he will be accorded the necessary treatment while in custody.

On the other hand, the court rejected Kabera’s submission that he was only representing the PS and the Minister in the meeting, the Judges pointing that the fact that he was present at the meeting to discuss the decisions taken constituted a crime, which is why he is suspected of being directly involved.

For Serubibi, the Court argued that his participation in the proceedings in which he is accused with others is compelling enough to suspect that he was involved in the decision.

As the DG of RHA, he was involved in arriving at the decision to buy the building at Rwf9.85bn yet it had been proved that the said building was worth at least Rwf7.6bn, according to an evaluation done by Gasabo 3D. Serubibi had posted a bail worth Rwf76 million but the court rejected it.

For Rwamuganza, he told the court that the value of Gasabo 3D was not realistic because it is based only on the cost to build the house, but doesn’t factor in other issues such as the interest on the loans the businessman took from the bank and the charges of making a down payment on the loans, which are supposed to be paid ahead of time.

The court however said the details will be heard during the substantive hearing and turned down the security posted by Rwamuganza. All the accused have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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