Trial of man with “unexplained wealth” begins in his absence

Kacyiru Primary Court, yesterday, tried former Director of Finance in the President’s Office, Janvier Murenzi, in absentia in his ongoing embezzlement case. Murenzi had not turned up for the trial and the judge invoked article 155 of the Penal Code, to proceed with the hearing in the defendant’s absence.

Kacyiru Primary Court, yesterday, tried former Director of Finance in the President’s Office, Janvier Murenzi, in absentia in his ongoing embezzlement case.

Murenzi had not turned up for the trial and the judge invoked article 155 of the Penal Code, to proceed with the hearing in the defendant’s absence.

The trial had been postponed last week after the defence sought more time to further analyse the case, but the defendant did not turn up in yesterday’s proceedings.

“Basing on article 155 of the penal code as was quoted by prosecution, the court has decided to try Murenzi in absentia since he was aware of his appearance in court but decided not turn up, and he did not make any communication,” ruled presiding judge Jean Damascene Gasana.

Prosecution was represented by Jean Pierre Habarurema, while Murenzi was represented by Athanase Rutabingwa, who immediately left the court room after hearing the judge’s order.

The verdict had been set for November, 27, after prosecution called for a five-year prison term for Murenzi.

Murenzi who is currently detained at Mulindi military prison is accused of accumulating unexplained wealth.

According to Habarurema, Murenzi had in the period of four years worked as a civil servant, accumulating over Rwf500m, seriously dwarfing his four year salary of Rwf 30,540,000.

“Murenzi first served as a government prosecutor before his spell at the President’s Office, he has never acquired a loan, no any other source of income, there is no way he could have accumulated all this wealth,” Habarurema told the court yesterday.

Habarurema said that the suspect said he had acquired the wealth way before he joined the civil service while he was still a student at Kigali Institute of science and Technology (KIST).

“However he couldn’t pin point his business,” prosecutor maintained.

He added that within the same period, Murenzi had been able to put up five mansions in several city suburbs, two plots, two accounts, one being a USD dollar one.

When contacted, Rutabingwa said the decision to continue the trial in the absence of his client was unfair.

“I had no business in court because this being a criminal case, I would not have represented my client in his absence,” said Rutabingwa.

Maintaining that his client was sick, Rutabingwa argued that the fact that Murenzi is in jail means that he is not at liberty to decide when to appear in court.

“It was actually the duty of the prosecution to produce him in court.”

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