13 February 2013

Rwanda: Seven in Court for Stealing From Police Hospital

Prosecution on Tuesday prayed that Gasabo Intermediate Court sentences seven people to 10 years in jail for conspiring to steal over Rwf50 million from the Kacyiru-based Police Hospital.

Using counterfeit cheques, the suspects withdrew the money from the hospital's account in Zigama Credit and Savings Society (CSS-Zigama), Kigali branch.

Among the defendants is Clement Ruzigana, an accountant at the hospital, whom prosecution accuses of forging the signature of Reverien Rutesi, the hospital's administrator.

All defendants, who include five women, are remanded at Remera Prison.

They are accused of having, on different occasions, since March 2012, withdrawn money from the hospital's account with the help of Patrick Rugema, a teller at the bank.

The five women were used to withdraw the money.

Investigations started on October 9, 2012 after Jeanne Abera, 25, a secondary school graduate was arrested trying to cash a cheque of Rwf2,240,000 which she said was the fifth.

She said her friend, Claudine Niyomizero connected her to her brother, a man identified as Theophile, to run an errand for him at a fee. It emerged in court that the man told her the errand was to withdraw money on behalf of a 'friend' who, he said, had won a tender from the police facility, but could not withdraw it over the counter, because he did not have an ID.

Abera said she later met two other men - Jacques and Ruzigana - who handed her the cheque and accompanied her to the bank, and directed her to Rugema.

The girl said the cheque was cashed and she left Rwf 150,000 with the teller, as instructed by the men.

Abera, who said she could not imagine the men were criminals, testified that after handing the money to the trio, each got their share and they gave her Rwf20,000.

She was to run a similar errand atleast five more times.

Two on the run

Whereas Rugema and Ruzigana, together with the five women are in custody, Jacques and Theophile are on the run.

Court asked them why they withdrew money under their name over a tender or a service they did not provide to police health centre.

But Ruzigana said that he could not have masterminded the theft because he was sick when the first cheque was reportedly issued. He, however, acknowledged that he once called Rugema, the teller and asked him to facilitate a client, which he said was routine.

On the other hand, Rugema said all the cheques he served from police hospital were authorised by the operations managers of Zigama CSS, and his lawyer Charles Shema said the top bankers confirmed this.

Rugema added that he was the one who discovered the errors on Abera's cheque after she appeared for the fifth time and notified his bosses, adding that the other suspects are claiming to have left him money simply because they want to implicate him, as retribution.

Ruling is scheduled on March 11, 2013.

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