A heated dispute between Paul Muvunyi, a prolific businessman, and Horizon Group ltd, a business arm of RDF, has prompted him to seek President Kagame’s intervention for an amicable settlement.
On February 11, 2020, Muvunyi wrote a three-page letter to the Justice Minister, Johnson Busingye, and attached a dossier of dozens of pages.
He copied the President, the Minister of Defense and the Army Chief.
In the letter, he details a 12-years battle he has fought with Horizon Sopyrwa Ltd, as subsidiary of Horizon Group Ltd.
The firm deals in pyrethrum business.
Muvunyi is throwing in the towel after failure to secure justice, according to him, even though he has been engaging different institutions to help him from what he terms as being “swallowed by the shark.”
It all began with him buying off what was formally known as Sopyrwa, a state owned company then, that was involved in pyrethrum production and export.
It was sold off through privatization.
Muvunyi ran the firm for some years, made a fortune and attracted dozens of farmers into growing the lucrative crop in the Northern Province.
Later, the government concluded he was incapable of expanding the firm and investing in farmers for more production because it needed intense capital injection, which he did not have.
It also was clear that the firm had to deal with cumbersome obstacles that required involvement of different institutions.
An agreement was reached and Horizon Group Ltd bought him out and formed an arm called Horizon Sopyrwa Ltd.
Twelve years later, today, the two parties are still involved in endless wrangles with counter lawsuits and appeals in the courts of law.
First, a definitive arbitration sentence handed down in 2011 ordered, in favor of Muvunyi, that Horizon pays him US$597,890 as remainder from the buyout.
Until today, Muvunyi has never received the money.
Instead, there emerged a case against Muvunyi.
Horizon sued him for embezzlement.
He was accused of having exported 1000 tonnes of pyrethrum and did not pay due taxes. An initial price tag was slightly over Rwf1billion.
Horizon claimed that during the buyout, he had not declared a debt with the taxman.
Horizon would later be asked by RRA to pay the arrears. That is how Horizon dragged him to court to pay this money.
A final judgment in 2019 was handed down by the Supreme court, instructing him to pay slightly over Rwf500 million to Horizon.
He did not have the money on spot. He offered to place one of his prime properties worth over Rwf900m as collateral as he looked for the money to clear his debt.
While all this wrangle ensued, Muvunyi was about to secure a credit from IFC, over US$7million to invest in a hotel in Akagera National Park and expand other properties.
The loan was going to be secured against some of his properties.
Then one day bad news hit Muvunyi that the properties he had offered as collateral to IFC are under a caveat lodged by Horizon.
In an unclear circumstance, Horizon wrote to the Rwanda Landa Center, instructing them to place caveats on all Muvunyi’s immovable assets.
The Land Center never bothered to validate Horizon’s rational behind their request for lodging caveats on all of Muvunyi’s assets.
Taarifa reliably learned that Muvunyi has been pleading with the Land Center and Horizon for an amicable settlement. His efforts yielded no results.
He cannot sell any of the properties to settle his obligations nor offer the properties as collateral to secure a loan and pay Horizon or secure the IFC credit.
Taarifa has also learned that the property offered as collateral to Horizon will be auctioned this Friday.
We spoke to Horizon Group CEO, Brig. Gen. Fred Muziraguharara to get their side of the story.
He declined to comment.
At first he said we had called the wrong number even after having sent him a text message clarifying who we are and why we were calling him. He called back asking again who we were and what we wanted.
“Maybe this is a wrong number,” he said.
When we asked him if he is indeed not the CEO, he said, “…but I am not the one who will be answering this.”
He referred us to the company secretary. He promised to share the contacts of the company’s secretary, but he never sent it.
Meanwhile, Taarifa sought classification from Esperance Mukamana, the Director General and Chief Registrar of Land Titles.
“Horizon told us they had an unresolved matter with Muvunyi,” she said.
Pressed on whether they verified their claim, she declined to go into details saying the matter is complex to be discussed on phone.
She referred us to the legal officer.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister told Taarifa, in response to an inquiry on the letter written to him by Muvunyi, that he would respond to him not later than Wednesday (today) the latest.
He said that he would not want to intervene beyond what the order of the supreme court.
“I am only interested because I am the Attorney General,” he said.
He also wondered why the two parties have not reconciled on what they owe each other.
Regarding the caveats, he said “ask the land center. Lodging caveats is normal, but they should give you reasons why….ask them to explain.”
Apparently Horizon’s explanations to the Land Center were based on a case that was dismissed indefinitely. We have seen a copy of that case. The Land Center did not care to verify.
Also, Taarifa is aware that Rwanda Development Board (RDB) was dragged into the case.
RDB CEO, Clare Akamanzi, told Taarifa that she never wanted to interfere with the case. “The matter was in court so we left it to court to decide,” she said.
Muvunyi is cornered. He says only the President can help him.
“Only his Excellency the President can help me, I know who I am up against, no one wants to get involved …what don’t you see?”, he says as he fights to hold his tears.