Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Government of Kenya to protect Kabuga's assets!

The frozen assets of Rwandan fugitive Felicien Kabuga will be protected by the Kenya government until a case it has filed has been heard and determined.

In a ruling made on yesterday, the High Court said that Kenya was a voluntary member of the UN and among resolutions passed by the Security Council was for members to fully cooperate. He said that since the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda had asked Kenya for assistance, the latter had to comply.

Through an application, the fugitive’s wife, Josephine Mukazitoni, wanted the properties she co-owns with her husband unfrozen saying Kenya had no legal right to seek a freeze on the family’s assets. Mukazitoni also argued that Kenyan courts have no jurisdiction over the case as it arises from a matter pending before a tribunal under a different jurisdiction.

Her property situated in Nairobi, known as Spanish Villas, were frozen last year following an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko. According to State Law Office, a joint team of investigators from the tribunal and the Kenya police was formed in December 2007 to trace the fugitive. The team later discovered that Kabuga was receiving Sh290,000 after every three months from the property in Nairobi. The Department of Public Prosecutions suspected that the money was assisting the fugitive evade arrest and justice. The money, said the State Law Office, was usually wired by a firm managing the property—Kenya Trust Company Limited—every three months to an account co-owned by Kabuga and his wife in Belgium. The fugitive is also said to have operated an account at Commercial Bank of Africa in Nairobi, but it was closed on September 22, 2006, after which Kenya Trust Company started sending Sh290,000 in French Francs.

Although the physical address of Kenya Trust Company Ltd is not known, the company had been collecting rent and depositing it in an account that was owned by Kabuga at the Commercial Bank of Africa. The account was then closed in 2005 and the Sh3.4 million in it wired to an account in Belgium.

While granting the application, Mr Justice Muga Apondi directed that the money be deposited to the High Court registrar for preservation. This did not go well with Mukazitoni and she filed an application in objection. But on Tuesday, Mr Justice Apondi said that the state has not purported to acquire the assets but only sought a preservation pending the determination of a case against Mr Kabuga before the ICTR. The tribunal at one time accused Kenya of doing too little to assist in the arrest of the fugitive.

In a strongly worded letter, the ICTR told the Government that the steps it has taken in freezing the house belonging to Kabuga, was too little and coming too late. The letter also accuses the Kenyan Government of doing nothing on several assets, companies and bank accounts identified by a joint task force as being associated with the most sought after fugitive. Kabuga had evaded arrest since 1997 when he was indicted over crimes against humanity. The fugitive was wanted by the tribunal for various international crimes, including genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, incitement and complicity in genocide. The crimes were committed in 1994 in Rwanda, where close to one million people were killed.

The fugitive, aged 73, was born in Muniga Secteur, Mukarange Commune in Buyumba in Rwanda.

Before the genocide in 1994, Kabuga was the President of the National Defence Fund. Under President Juvenal Habyarimana, Kabuga had immense political clout and was a powerful financier. Two of his daughters married President Habyarimana’s sons. A reward of US$5 million has been offered by the US for any information leading to capture of the fugitive.

The case will now be heard on September 25.

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