Rwanda: Graft - Prosecution Working on 'Big Fish' Files

The days of high profile corrupt officials, who many prefer to call 'Big Fish', are numbered as the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Rwanda Investigation Bureau intensify efforts to crackdown on corrupt officials.

Prosecutor General Jean Bosco Mutangana said on Thursday that his office has acted on the 2016/2017 Auditor General's report and has since received 52 files from the RIB after preliminary investigations.

For the 2017/2018 Auditor General's report, which was released in April, Mutangana said, his office has already sent 24 files to court.

"We are doing our best to expedite all the investigative processes to bring the so-called 'big fish' to justice. The good news is that following our investigation and pursuit of those who were cited in the Auditor General's 2016/2017 report, we have recovered slightly over Rwf500m back into the government coffers," he said.

Not above the law

Mutangana warned that, despite the position one may hold, no one is above the law because crimes that destroy the economic fabric of the nation have become a priority for the Government.

"Whether you are a Minister, Prosecutor, Judge or any other person, you will face the consequences of your crime like any other Rwandan. Let those who may think that they are untouchable know that they are wrong because everyone is equal before the law. We investigate arrest and take you to court if there is evidence," he said.

Challenges

Last week, the Office of Ombudsman released a list of 108 people who were convicted for corruption and sentenced.

Of these, only a few cases involved big amount such as a case involving two SONARWA employees who received a bribe worth Rwf163 million each and a Rwanda Energy Group (REG) employee who received a bribe of Rwf90.3 million.

But Murekezi explained that his office's mandate with regard to corruption is limited.

"The Ombudsman has no legal mandate to appeal for review of court cases unless the prosecution requests us to. There are gaps, both in civil and penal matters, and we are not able to have more cases reviewed," he added.

He noted that the law does not permit the Office of the Ombudsman to appeal for case reviews that were investigated by RIB and submitted to the national prosecution.

"Legally, we are not allowed to follow up and ask for the review of cases the prosecution has lost if corruption cases were investigated by RIB and submitted to the prosecution," he said.

The Office of Ombudsman also said it has won 24 embezzlement cases and needs to recover over Rwf1 billion that is involved.

This is part of efforts to recover over Rwf7 billion still owed by individuals who were convicted of different crimes.

Over the last 24 years, the Government has been able to recover only Rwf2 billion from citizens who lost court cases to the Government, including those related to corruption and embezzlement.

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