In the latest twist to the plight of the family of deceased wealthy businessman Assinapol Rwigara, the Commercial Appeals Court has ordered them to repay a loan the family says doesn’t exist.
The case, until this Monday’s verdict, has been going for about five years. First, it began with an insurance company taking a bank to court. It evolved to the Rwigara family.
Currently, Rwigara is survived by a widow Adeline Rwigara Mukangemanyi, two daughters Diane Shima Rwigara and Anne Rwigara, with sons Arioste Rwigara, and Aristide Rwigara.
The Commercial Appeals Court presiding judge ruled Monday that the family must repay a balance of 349,752,425 on a loan they obtained in 2014.
At the time, according to the judgement, when the family patriarch Rwigara Assinapol was still alive, he obtained a loan of Rwf 821m from Cogebanque, one of local commercial banks. The loan was to be repaid within 1 year plus interest.
However, on February 4, 2015, Rwigara died in what the authorities said was a car accident in a posh Kigali neighborhood. Photos of the site that evening showed a mangled vintage Mercedes Benz car.
In 2017, Prime Insurance transferred Rwf 540m to Cogebanque, according to the Court. However, the Rwigara family says the insurance firm sent Rwf 600m.
This is where the case becomes complicated. To understand how the insurance firm comes, here are the details.
In December 2015, nearly a year following their patriarch’s demise, the family files case against Prime Insurance after it allegedly refused to repay Assinapol Rwigara’s life insurance of about $2m (Rwf 2billion).
Last year, after months of wrangling, a lower court ruled on a case in which Prime Insurance had dragged Cogebanque asking that the bank refunds Rwf 349m from the pay it received.
So after the bank refunded that money back to Prime Insurance, the bank wants the Rwigara family to be the one paying it that money. The bank says that money is the last installment of the 2014 loan.
The problem, however, the family says the loan was obtained by Premier Tobacco Company Ltd, the Rwigara cigarette maker which was also auctioned in 2018 by government.
The family says it should be the tobacco firm paying the loan, not the family.
On the other hand, Cogebanque is in possession of documents of major Rwigara properties including a commercial complex in Kigali’s CBD. It is not clear, as to how the bank got the documents, or they patriarch Assinapol submitted them as security for the loan.
A few weeks ago, Cogebanque nearly auctioned the family business complex to recover its money. The appeal commercial court halted the process, to hear the case afresh.
Now, the same Appeals court has approved that indeed the loan must be repaid by the family, not the tobacco firm as asserted by the family.
Court also said until they repay the money, they will not get back the documents of their properties submitted as loan guarantee.
Another strange aspect of the ruling is that the Appeals court didn’t say whether the property of the Rwigaras should be attached to the loan, so that in case they don’t pay the money plus Rwf 700,000 fine, the property could be auctioned.
In court on Monday, as usual, Adeline Rwigara, was in attendance. She angrily stormed out of court even before the court session had ended.
In subsequent media interviews, the widow said the family will never pay any cent because the case is a fraud, part of a wider campaign to impoverish family.
“Let me make it very clear; we will never pay any money. Let them continue with what they have intended and planned to do all along,” she said in interview with VOA great lakes service that airs in Kinyarwanda.
She doesn’t say who exactly is behind the family’s unending troubles.
Since 2017, the family says it has been a target of a government campaign to destroy them as punishment for Diane Rwigara seeking to challenge President Paul Kagame in the 2017 polls. Her candidacy was disqualified and didn’t appear on the ballot.