Rwandan editor in custody over tax evasion, fraud

Monday January 2 2017

By Ivan R. Mugisha

Veteran Rwandan journalist and proprietor of the Rwanda Focus newspaper, Shyaka Kanuma, was arrested and detained on New Year’s eve over tax evasion and illegal procurement claims.

Police deputy spokesperson, Linda Nkuranga, told The EastAfrican on Monday that Mr Kanuma was arrested following a report filed by the Rwanda Revenue Authority accusing him of tax liabilities worth more than Rwf60 million.

She also said that he was under investigation for fraudulently winning a tender worth over Rwf44 million, without giving more details on the issue.

While the police acknowledged holding him, his wife, Hellen Mwihoreze, said she had been denied access to him.

She told The EastAfrican that officers at the station informed her that her husband was not in their custody, contradicting what the police deputy spokesperson had said earlier.

“Since his arrest on Saturday, I have been going to Remera Station requesting to see my husband, but they keep telling me that he is not here. I asked them where he was but none of them was willing to tell me anything other than that he is not at the station. I am confused,” she said.

But the acting commissioner for criminal investigations department, Morris Muligo, told The EastAfrican that Mr Kanuma was not being held incommunicado and had a right to be visited by his friends and relatives.

“Perhaps those who go to visit him go to the station at the wrong time, I don’t know; but he has a right to be visited within the visiting hours,” he said.

Prior to his arrest, Mr Kanuma had shut down his paper, Rwanda Focus, citing financial difficulties.

Social media posts

Last week, Mr Kanuma announced through a social media post that he had decided to quit journalism for political and social activism, a decision he later claimed resulted in summonses by the police.

In a lengthy post on his Facebook account, he said was first invited to explain himself to the head of National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Brigadier General Joseph Nzabamwita.

This was followed by trips for questioning at the Criminal Investigations Department during the week.

“I had little idea it (political activism) would begin to cause commotion even before I had done anything,” he said on his Facebook page prior to his arrest.
But the Police deny that their action connected to his social media posts.

“The only reasons for his arrest were tax fraud and a fraudulent tender win,” Ms Nkuranga said.

Under police probe

Meanwhile, the police confirmed that yet another local journalist, Bob Mugabe, was under investigations but failed to divulge details of his offenses.

Mr Mugabe had previously stated that he was being accused of “treason and spreading rumours with intent to undermine the State.”

Mr Muligo said Mr Mugabe was being questioned but that no charge had been levied against him.

“Mr Mugabe is not under arrest. We summoned him to get information we need – we cannot share the information at the moment. But if the information he provides leads to us to finding a crime, whoever is involved shall be notified,” Mr Muligo said at a Press conference.

“Let us be clear; every Rwandan has rights and obligations. We the investigators also have the obligation to summon anyone if we suspect them of a crime, or if we want to gather critical information from them, or if they are a witness. Reporting to CID is normal procedure,” he said.