Now Rwanda govt, banks to seize Rwigara properties

Saturday November 11 2017

The Rwigaras, one of Rwanda’s richest families, could soon find themselves without shelter if authorities go ahead to auction their properties to settle an outstanding tax bill of about Rwf5 billion ($6 million).

Authorities accuse the Rwigaras of tax evasion and could list the family’s posh mansion in Kigali’s upscale Kiyovu neighbourhood among properties to be seized within the next two weeks, in addition to their cigarette dealership Premier Tobacco, and other properties including land and vehicles.

“If they have not paid the tax by the end of November, we shall begin to put their properties on the market,” the Commissioner General of Rwanda Revenue Authority Richard Tusabe said.

Mr Tusabe however added that they could put off the auction if the Rwigaras propose a viable payment plan.

Sources in the banking sector also told The EastAfrican that banks which the Rwigaras owe money were also seizing property the family put up as collateral with plans to auction it.

But the family maintains that the charges are politically motivated and aimed at silencing their criticism of government and to bankrupt them. In a court session last month, the family business representative Anne Rwigara, a sister of Diane Rwigara — who was disqualified from the presidential race in August — told judges that tax authorities had tried to force her to sign a payment plan that she found impossible to abide by.


Payment plan

The payment plan, she said, demanded that the family pay up to Rwf6 billion ($7 million) in 12 months, even though the RRA had closed their tobacco company — their main source of income — over tax evasion claims.

The taxman maintains that the family has been evading taxes from as far back as 2012, which is a “habit” that provided justification for strict measures on recovering the money they owe.

Although the Rwanda Public Prosecution Authority had excluded tax evasion from the dossier of charges it presented at the family’s pre-trial hearing, RRA said it had continued to investigate the claim behind the scenes.

“This is purely a tax matter which is followed up and investigated by the tax authority. You cannot mix the other problems they have in court with the tax evasion problems,” said Mr Tusabe.

READ: Rwigara family: Victims or troublemakers?

Diane is on remand on charges of incitement and forgery related to her bid to run in the August 4 polls.

Her mother, Adeline Rwigara, is also in detention on charges of inciting insurrection and promoting sectarianism. They now seek to overturn a court ruling denying them bail in an upcoming hearing set for November 16.

The family was once a strong ally of the ruling party RPF. Diane’s father, Assinapol Rwigara, built an empire in Rwanda in the early 1980s and 1990s.

In the early 2000s Mr Rwigara started to distance himself from RPF due to differences in political ideology. He died in a car crash in February 2015. The family alleged that he had been murdered in a setup, despite a police statement saying it was an accident.