6 January 2013

Rwanda: Police Arrest Four Over Stolen Cheques

Police in Kigali have arrested four people suspected of stealing cheque leafs from Kayenzi Health Centre in Kamonyi District. The suspects are alleged to have tried to use the cheques to withdraw money from the centre's account in Bank Populaire, after forging signatures.

The first suspect, Andre Hakizamungu, 42, was arrested on January 3 at about 5:00pm with a cheque worth Rwf290,000 as he tried to deposit it at a Bank Populaire branch in Kimironko, Gasabo District.

Another suspect, Pascal Hakizimana, 33, was also arrested at a Bank Populaire branch in Kicukiro District on the same day with a cheque worth Rwf285,000, which he was apparently trying to deposit.

The duo was arrested red-handed after tellers, who were handling their cheques, notified Police after signatories denied issuing the cheques in question, when contacted by the bank for verification, Police said.

The cheques, which were stolen in December last year from the health centre, had forged signatures of the centre's signatories, Vassia Nyirahabimana, Jeanette Mutoni, and Antoine Ntabanganyimana, who are also members of the board.

Both Hakizamungu and Hakizimana, who are currently detained at Kicukiro Police Station, are alleged to have been conniving with the cashier of the health centre, Esther Mukahabiyambere, who gave them the cheque leafs and aided them to forge the signatures.

Mukahabiyambere was arrested yesterday morning. Pierre Ndayambaje, an office messenger at the health centre, is the fourth suspect the Police are treating as an accomplice in the fraud.

The Police are also searching for five other people, who are said to be part of the gang. They include a woman and a man, who allegedly withdrew Rwf285,000 and Rwf290,000 on December 17 and 31 last year, respectively, from a Bank Populaire branch also in Kimironko.

Supt Albert N. Gakara, the Police spokesperson for Central Region, who confirmed the arrests, urged bank account holders to always seek details of their accounts and to "man their banking tools jealously."

"Bank account holders and those managing institutional accounts should check their bank accounts and bank employees should verify any cheque thoroughly before releasing the money," he said.

The suspects will face two charges - theft of the cheque and counterfeiting signatures as stipulated under articles 300 and 609 of the new Penal Code.

Any person who commits theft without violence or threat shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of six months to two years and a fine of two to five times the value of the stolen property, or one of these penalties.

If successfully prosecuted, they face at least five years in jail for both counts.

The arrests come two weeks after suspected armed robbers attacked and killed Emmanuel Uzabumwana, a cashier at Musange Savings and Credit Cooperative, Nyamagabe district, before fleeing with Rwf800,000.

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