Rwanda Revenue Authority has set March 28 to publicly auction massive tobacco stocks to raise over Rwf3 billion of taxes Premier Tobacco Company Ltd owes to government.
“Interested bidders can begin visiting the site on March 20th to see the tobacco stock set for auction,” reads in part a statement signed on March 14 by court bailiff Habimana Vedaste.
According to the revenue collection body (RRA), the tobacco company accumulated the arrears from 2012 to date.
Premier Tobacco Company Ltd is owned by the late Rwigara Assinapol – an entrepreneur who made a fortune in industry and real estate.
Currently the family business empire is managed by the daughter Anne Rwigara, sister to Diane Rwigara who is charged with inciting insurrection against the state as well as forgery of documents and signature counterfeiting among other offenses.
Meanwhile, Richard Tusabe, the RRA Commissioner General recently told journalists that the Rwigara family is indebted to several persons especially a string of banks.
Earlier in February, RRA said it had reached an advanced stage in negotiations with creditors on how to auction the family’s property to pay off the debt.
The family’s accounts in GT Bank and Ecobank were frozen, but cash deposits can be made.
But in January 2018, Janvier Rwagatare, the family’s lawyer filed a case in the Commercial Court of Nyarugenge, accusing RRA of illegally seizing its bank accounts and assets, claiming that such acts had prevented the factory from recovering.
Rwagatare had submitted to court arguing that his client’s business had suffered a setback because the raw material used to make cigarettes was decomposing in the warehouse because of lack of access and requested the court to order RRA to withdraw all seizures.
“We are open to let this factory operate, but under strict measures that will give us visibility about what they do,” Tusabe said in February.
In 1980’s, what started as Tabarwanda Company transitioned into the current Premier Tobacco Company limited, which has been a leading producer and exporter of tobacco products. The company later diversified to import of wines and expensive liquors.