The New Times (Kigali)

8 June 2005

Rwanda: Kajeguhakwa Case: Defendants Deny Charges

Kigali — Bankers who had pleaded guilty for conspiring with fugitive businessman Valens Kajeguhakwa to swindle over two billion francs, have made a U-turn and pleaded not guilty. Most of them have claimed that they were minor employees, who never knew anything 'from above'.

Sylvestre Mupende, formerly head of inspections, said that the Prosecution failed to adduce evidence linking him to complicity with Kajeguhakwa in swindling the money.

"The said eighteen million which prosecution alleges I received as a bribe from Kajeguhakwa was actually a loan I secured from the bank to build a house. I am even still paying it," Mupende told Kigali City Court in Nyamirambo presided over by Magistrate Athanase Yaramba, last week.

Suodi Hirwa, the co-prosecuting attorney in his winding briefs had told court that the string of managers who included Sylvestre Mupende, Faustin Harerimana, Head of Bank Operations, Jean de Dieu Twagirayezu, Chief Accountant and Niyitegeka Jean Chrysostom, the Internal Auditor had all admitted to having received an inducements from Kajeguhakwa in millions, which was termed 'bonus' for their role in the bank fraud.

"Your honour, according to the documentary evidence before you, Twagirayezu personally admitted having received Frw15 million out of Frw 120 million he had been promised. Harerimana also confessed having been given Frw 20 million he disguised as 'bonus' out of the 300 million he had been promised," Hirwa said, adding that Harerimana's not getting the 'bonus' in its entirety cannot mitigate his complicity.

The Prosecutor further told court that all the confidential documents related to the fictitious accounts and Kajeguhakwa's bank accounts were found in Niyitegaka's office and offer proof that the latter was his boss' confidant and, therefore, an accomplice to the mafia-like deals.

The Prosecutor said Mupende, who is highly regarded as Kajeguhakwa's right hand man, had also confessed having been authorized to get Frw 18 million, yet his credit facilities had been exhausted and that the same loan was not debted to his account.

However, citing Article 79, Counsel for Mupende, Jean Bosco Kazungu, told the presiding magistrate that the law disqualifies an accused person to appear as a witness.

"This law clearly states that persons who are accused cannot turn into potential witnesses in the same trial and this is what happened when Jean Pierre Twagirayezu (the then chief accountant) and Faustin Harerimana were called to the witness stand," Kazungu told court.

Other co-accused who denied the allegations citing inaccurate evidence adduced by Prosecution include: Eustache Ndayisabye, Emmanuel Ndagijimana, Innocent Munyankindi, Karigire and Gabriel Ndagijimana.

Also on trial but in absentia is Kajeguhakwa together with his two sons, Christian and Serge Kajeguhakwa, and other twelve bankers. They are charged with misappropriation of depositors' money from the Banque Continentale du Rwanda (BACAR).

Prosecution prayed court to sentence the co-accused to a maximum of ten years imprisonment, strip them of the civil liberties, and order them to pay court costs and damages to the civil parties, if convicted of the string of charges they stand accused of.

The Prosecutor, however, requested court to reduce the sentence for Harerimana Faustin to five years and one year for Jean de Dieu Twagirayezu, owing to the voluntary cooperation with the judicial authorities in the investigation and subsequent prosecution.

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