29 July 2008

Rwanda: Former New Times Director in Court Over Embezzlement

The former managing director of The New Times, John Bosco Sanyu, last week appeared in court on accusation of embezzlement during his time in office at the newspaper.

At the opening of the hearing at the court of Kacyiru, Mr. Sanyu produced a letter from his lawyer Janvier Rwagatare, who was not present, to request more time to study the case. According to the letter, the lawyer had on several occasions tried to collect the documents but had been denied access to the file.

However, the presiding judge, Claudine Nyiramikenke, rejected the request, arguing that Mr. Rwagatare was on a two-month disciplinary suspension and thus had no right to write to the court. Furthermore, she said, Mr. Sanyu could not produce any evidence that the he had been refused his file.

"This is only a plot to delay the proceedings of the court, as the court under no conditions ever denies anyone the details of their case," judge Nyiramikenke said. "Therefore, the hearing will continue."

In reply, John Bosco Sanyu said that since he did not know what he was accused of and had no details of his case, he would remain silent throughout the hearing. Prosecutor Eugene Sakindi then proceeded with reading the accusations. In all, Mr. Sanyu is alleged to have embezzled Frw 51,216,820 during his time as managing director of The New Times.

This, according to the prosecutor, was done through different methods. In the first place, he accused Mr. Sanyu of having taken various amounts of money on several occasions, all of which "would go into his pockets," Mr. Sakindi remarked.

The prosecutor furthermore alleged that the former MD used money from the newspaper to buy airline tickets for people with no connections whatsoever with The New Times. Moreover, Mr. Sanyu is said to have taken Frw 2 million supposedly for Mutara University, yet with the money ending up in his own bank account.

The prosecutor also accused him of having allocated himself a bonus of Frw 2 million every six months, which was a decision that should have been taken by his employers.

"Apology and responsibility"

Another allegation was that Mr. Sanyu bought a Toyota Carina with money of The New Times, yet he signed the purchase contract alone whereas, amongst others, the finance manager should have been a co-signatory.

Afterwards, according to the prosecutor, Mr. Sanyu's wife, Daphrine Busingye, would rent the car to The New Times, even though the company was actually the owner of the vehicle.

Eugene Sakindi concluded by saying that John Bosco Sanyu had admitted the embezzlement, evidence of which was a letter dated August 29, 2006 to the chairman of the newspaper's board, under the subject "apology and responsibility."

"It is now almost two months since I was suspended as he managing director of New Times," the prosecutor read from the letter. "It is unfortunate that I have never bothered to solve my problems with New Times. In this regard, I realize that I acted irresponsibly by not listening to your advices.

"I request you to give me a chance to solve this case out of court as it would be the most reasonable way of solving the issue, rather than taking the matter to court."

When asked to present his defense, Mr. Sanyu replied that he had submitted himself to court, and had nothing more to say.

The lawyer representing The New Times said his client wanted John Bosco Sanyu to pay back the embezzled money as well as damages worth Frw 3 million. He should also ask for forgiveness, and that would close the case. The verdict will be announced on August 16.

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