Fraud hits banks; is depositors’ money safe?

Fraud is rising within Rwanda’s banks driven by what experts call light sentences handed to perpetuators.

Fraud is rising within Rwanda’s banks driven by what experts call light sentences handed to perpetuators.

Abuse of public trust, the charge most bankers are accused of stealing carries a minimum sentence of five years. Now some Rwandans are only knowing they will serve the sentence for a short time and latter come out to enjoy the loot.

But experts warn: “If tougher laws against bank fraud are not enacted, the country may be blacklisted as not friendly to investors.”

The warning comes when Rwanda’s central location in the Great Lakes region and the good economic environment is attracting several investors.

The experts have cause to worry. Of recent almost every bank—including the Central Bank have registered cases of theft of depositor’s money.

The suspects are some staff of these banks.    

Central Bank of Rwanda officials allegedly embezzled Frw50 million.

They were identified as Francois Rusagara, Francois Murenzi and Laurent Ndagijimana.

Rusagara and Murenzi were cashiers at BNR headquarters in Kigali, while Ndagijimana was based at the bank’s Huye Branch in Southern Province.

It is alleged the accused were unlawfully getting money from the Central Bank  coffers and loaning it to businessmen.

This case was the third in a series that rocked the bank
The latest victim of the theft is the Rwanda Commercial Bank (BCR) where François Ngarambe, the manager BCR Changugu branch is alleged to have stolen $350,000—about Frw190 million from the branch he heads.

But Ngarambe denies the charges insisting the money was stolen by somebody at large.

Records at BCR headquarters indicate that the money was actually entered into the system as received but by press time there was no hard cash in the bank to support the entry.

The police are now helping in investigation. And, the investigations team has netted four senior police officers in connection with the theft.

The police officers are suspected, partly because they rode in the same vehicle, dinned and wined with the bank manager that fateful day.

 “I guess we are not the only ones so far that have suffered such losses.

In the recent past most financial institutions have suffered grievous losses of similar nature,” Hannington Namara, BCR’s marketing manager said.

In the recent past, the Central Bank, Fina Bank, the defunct Bank of Commerce Development and Industry (BCDI) have also fallen victims of internally orchestrated thefts. Mangers in banks want the crime checked by government coming up with tougher laws.

They argue that Financial/economic crimes are serious crimes like any others. “No Rwandan can lift a panga against the other because the law against Genocide is tough.

We should come up with such laws to protect the banking sector,” Namara said. 

“They (financial crimes) should be treated equally serious. As Rwandans at different levels, we need raise and curb down crimes of this nature.

This is our country and therefore our economic status at stake,” he said.

 Adding: “If the financial sector can not be defended from robbers, then no one including investors will have confidence in the sectors.

We need to fight these crimes from all corners.”

Ends

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