Businessman Aloys Rusizana is back in jail for obscure reasons. This time he may not survive the wrath of those he describes as ‘loathing bureaucrats’ using state instruments to arm-twist him.
On May 5, 2023, plain-clothed detectives picked him up from his new commercial complex in Remera and told him he had questions to answer.
A trusted source says he was interrogated about the new complex and how he acquired money to build it. Detectives asked him to provide sources of income he used to construct the building. It is said that they also asked him to confirm if he was a “umushumba” (shepherd) of powerful individuals in government. This is a term commonly used to describe those who run businesses that belong to powerful individuals in government.
Specifically, Rusizana was asked to confirm if the building belongs to a powerful General who is also a Presidential Advisor. In response, during an intense interrogation, Rusizana reportedly responded saying, “I wouldn’t be here before you answering these unfounded allegations.” “And, if you know him well, is he the kind of a man who needs to use shepherds like me as you claim?…and if he does, I am not one of them. He is not my business partner at all.”
The tycoon, according to family members, was subjected to unstructured and rough questioning including the source of his wealth. Interrogators kept mentioning random names and asked him to confirm if they are his partners. Some names can’t be mentioned because of their credibility and the institutions they represent. We treated the information as hearsay.
It is said that interrogators seemed perturbed and disparaging, but the interrogation suddenly ended without any charges placed against him.
Instead, he was informed that he had been instructed by the court to pick him up so that he can begin serving a six year jail term slapped against him in a case against prosecution which he had been acquitted more than two years and half ago, January 2021.
Prosecution had appealed against his acquittal in the controversial case involving former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Caleb Rwamuganza and the co-accused who were charged with different counts related to mismanaging public funds.
They all faced charges including misuse of public property, flouting of procedures on public tenders, and complicity in flouting tendering procedures.
The other two in the case are Aloys Rusizana, and Bonaventure Munyabugingo a private property valuer. The court had acquitted the two.
In a massive dossier of hundreds of pages, which Taarifa has seen, Rusizana battled allegations that he had conspired with the government officials in the case to swindle government money.
How did it start?
In the court file, the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) approached Rusizana and negotiated with him to acquire one of his commercial complexes in Kacyiru, opposite the Novotel Hotel. The two parties agree on Rwf11.5 billion, and a deal was closed.
Apparently, the NISS informed Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) and the Ministry of Finance (MINECOFIN) to complete the purchase as soon as possible. Sources say MINECOFIN had already set aside Rwf12 billion for the completion of the transaction.
However, RHA called Rusizana and told him they were against the figure agreed upon by him and NISS. The forced him to begin a second phase of negotiations. He rejected their offer of Rwf7.5 billion. They dragged on and on and the NISS pulled out of the deal because it had gone sour. The nature of the pull and push sent a bad taste and NISS wasn’t ready to be compromised.
According to the details in the court’s file, two line Ministers, Amb. James Musoni (Minecofin) andAmb. Claver Gatete (MININFRA), both now Ambassadors to Zimbabwe and the UN, respectively, were not ready to be found answerable to the President for failing to coordinate and secure premises for the NISS. It was a classified procurement, a procedure legally accepted.
It is reported in the court’s dossier that Musoni and Gatete instructed their subordinates (PS MINECOFIN, MININFRA & DG RHA) to do whatever it takes to engage Rusizana and secure the building.
Fresh negotiations ensued. Rwamuganza chaired the last meeting that concluded on Rwf9.85 billion taxes exclusive. Rusizana accepted the offer and a contract was signed off.
What went bad?
NISS, according to sources, had already changed its mind. It had reportedly been instructed by the President to find another location. Now, MINECOFIN, MININFRA and RHA had to account for the purchase of the property since the end user, NISS, had retracted.
In their defense, other government agencies would occupy the building. Unfortunately, Rwamuganza could not convince the court how he came to a conclusion to make a unanimous decision to purchase the building contrary to advise from RHA and MININFRA that Rusizana was overcharging them.
Meanwhile, the court exonerated Rusizana from any responsibility because as a businessman, he reserves the right to set a price for his property and it is incumbent upon the buyer to negotiate and or accept his terms. That he cannot be prosecuted for selling his property at what prosecution described as exorbitant price.
Two and half years later, shortly after he launched his new complex, Rusizana finds himself in limbo, that prosecution was not convinced he is a clean man. Other sources say Rusizana is being punished for not confessing conniving with government officials to deflate the price of the building in their favour.
“I understand that government is trying to discourage and curb corruption or abuse of public funds, but this is purely a commercial matter,” a businessman who spoke to Taarifa commented on condition of anonymity. “This sends a bad taste to us in the private sector.” “It is good for the justice sector to ensure all parties exercise freedom to seek legal rights, prosecution included, but this time, we all can see that Rusizana is targeted. It is very bad.” “Sometimes these people in government make it look like being wealthy is a crime, why taunt him?”
Bank accounts frozen
Currently, Rusizana’s family is undergoing economic difficulties and his businesses are suffering economic losses. The family confirmed that personal accounts and business accounts have been frozen by the state. The family is struggling to put food on the table and is now forced to make very dangerous commercial moves to survive.
His wife shades tears day and night. His children hardly attend school. The family is devastated and hopeless. Relatives and friends tell them to bless for harder days.
“We offered to refund the money for the building so that we can have peace, the state refused,” a family member told Taarifa. “We have asked what we can do to have peace and live a peaceful life like anyone else, but they can’t accept.”
Rusizana is not allowed to appeal. The law provides that his sentence be above 20 years to qualify for appearing before court to table his appeal. His lawyers are attempting last kicks of the dying horse, but it looks like Rusizana has to buckle up and serve the six years.