9 June 2009

Rwanda: Rujugiro to Return Home

Kigali — The case in a UK court involving prominent Rwandan businessman, Tribert Rujugiro Ayabatwa, and South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority, (NPA) has been resolved.

In a statement released by Rujugiro's company, Mastermind Tobacco SA (Pty) Ltd (MTSA), both sides had reached an amicable solution and the charges against him dropped.

"A plea-bargain agreement was reached as neither of the two parties wished to prolong the matter any further," reads the statement in part.

Rujugiro was arrested by police on arrival at Heathrow Airport on October 13, 2008 on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by the NPA for alleged tax evasion.

He was granted bail three days later but barred from leaving London until a UK magistrate's court could rule on an extradition request from South Africa.

"There was no direct dispute of the facts and no evidence was produced by the NPA showing that MTSA, or any of its employees or directors, performed any act relating to the alleged crime," MTSA announced.

"This represents a satisfactory outcome for all parties concerned and affirms its trust in the judiciary of the Republic of South Africa and the United Kingdom."

The agreement paves way for the withdrawal of all charges against him and his company and resume his business unhindered.

The dispute goes back to 2004, and as Rujugiro claimed at the time of his arrest in November, his main competitor in the tobacco industry, British American Tobacco (BAT), was behind his predicament.

Speaking to The New Times on phone from London last week, he sounded relieved that the seven-month marathon in the English capital had finally come to an end.

"I am very happy that the matter is out of the way. Now I can return home and be reunited with my family," he said.

"My absence had a heavy toll on my business in South Africa, but now I will be able to go back and pick up the pieces and reorganise my work."

Rujugiro has vast business interests on the African continent, Asia and Europe, especially in the tobacco sector. He is also one of the driving forces behind Rwanda Investment Group (RIG) which has invested heavily in many projects in the country such as the methane gas project. He is expected in Kigali in two weeks' time.

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