Rwandan Government Faces Legal Battle as 150 Citizens Sue Over Alleged Unlawful Detention in $8.2 Million Card Fraud Scandal
Article: In a significant legal development, more than 150 Rwandans have initiated legal proceedings against their government, accusing it of unlawful arrest and detention in January last year over allegations of card fraud and money laundering amounting to $8,186,597.
Filed before the East African Court of Justice, the former I&M Bank cardholders assert that their rights were violated when they were detained for months without trial. The case brings to light a clash between the Rwandan Investigation Bureau and the petitioners, who argue that their constitutional rights, Rwandan laws, and specific articles of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community were breached.
The petitioners seek a declaration from the regional court, challenging the legality of the arrest and detention decisions. They argue that these actions contravene not only the Constitution of Rwanda and its laws but also violate the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and universal human rights principles endorsed by the East African Community, the African Union, and international law.
Leading the legal battle are Mr. Ssemakula Ali Abaas and Ms. Nyinawumuntu Leatitia, representing the 157 individuals allegedly subjected to arrest and detention over the fraud claims.
The group claims that their interaction with I&M Bank Rwanda involved the issuance of Mastercard multi-currency cards, promoting features such as the ability to switch between 17 different currencies within the card’s sub-wallets. Allegedly, the cardholders engaged in currency arbitrage, exploiting favorable rates offered by the MasterCard platform.
However, the situation took a drastic turn in January 2023 when the Rwanda Investigation Bureau arrested over 100 individuals on charges of bank fraud, money laundering, and illicit enrichment. Mr. Abaas, one of the petitioners, recounts being detained for two months, losing his job, and facing mental and physical torture. He claims that neither he nor others were informed of the reasons for their arrest, while some also had their travel documents and cash confiscated.
In response to the accusations, Rwanda’s Attorney General has denied the claims, asserting that the accused were under investigation for crimes of embezzlement and money laundering. The Attorney General argues that the regional court lacks jurisdiction in the matter and contends that the case is time-barred, as it was filed 11 months after the arrest and detention.
As the legal battle unfolds, the Rwandan government is expected to present its defense, emphasizing the jurisdictional challenge and asserting that the case should be dismissed based on the timing of its filing.