A Ugandan national Valence Kibyeyi (45) is awaiting trial in Rwanda in a case that has been running since his arrest on September 11, 2020 in Kigali.
At the time, Kibyeyi was intercepted in the shopping district of Kigali together with Rwandans Manirakiza Bernardin, a transporter, and Uwimana Damascene, a clearing agent.
Kibyeyi would later be charged at the Nyarugenge intermediate court for tax evasion. He faced to two other charges.
Court files show, Kibyeyi was arrested by Rwanda Revenue Authority’s Revenue Protection Unit with his accomplices as they offloaded 285 bales of Loincloth (ibitenge). He was transferring the clothing to his warehouse.
Under normal circumstances, the trader is supposed to have first taken the truck to RRA warehouse in Kigali Special Economic Zone for tax clearance.
The goods were brought in from China and crossed into Rwanda via Kagitumba border using a truck RAC 108P/RL 2767.
Court files show Kibyeyi was supposed to have paid taxes worth Rwf 16 million just for that particular consignment.
However, since his arrest and charging, the case has not made any significant progress. Court database shows he has appeared 14 times to date, most of which sessions were postponed at his request.
During the early days of his detention, court appearance was affected by COVID-19 lockdowns. However from mid 2021 to March 10 last week, Kibyeyi or his lawyer have repeatedly asked for change of dates.
For example, in some appearances, the defence lawyer said he wasn’t ready. In two sessions, Kibyeyi and the lawyer said they were waiting for some documents from RRA. In some appearances, the lawyer said his client was sick and therefore couldn’t appear.
Last week, the business association of Kosoro district in southwest Uganda sent letter to President Yoweri Museveni seeking his intervention to have the businessman Kibyeyi released. The letter was also copied to President Museveni’s son Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba.
It appears there is a calculates move to influence the outcome of the case by using political avenues.
From the prosecution dossier submitted as evidence in the trial, Kibyeyi is accused of using similar tax evasion tactics on more than 10 other trucks imported previously. A summation of all previous cases totals at least Rwf 1.3bn ($1.29m) in arrears, according to court documents.
The next court session is due on March 17, this Friday.
The petition by the Kisoro business community appears to be strategically timed with the hope for political influence on the progress of the case.
At the Mageragere prison, Kibyeyi has been visited by his wife, daughter and several other people.