PROBE - The Prosecution has petitioned the High Court to reverse a court ruling which freed businessman Barry Ndengeyingoma a.k.a Ndengeye.
Ndengeye was arrested on December 13 last year over crimes he allegedly committed in Belgium and for which he was sentenced to three years by a Brussels court last July. He was however set free on the New Year’s Eve by Gasabo Higher Instance Court.
But prosecutors say that the court’s decision to grant freedom to a man who was arrested on Interpol Red Notice and a European Arrest Warrant is contrary to the country’s commitments under Interpol Constitution, which binds it to cooperate when a member state requests that a suspect/convict on its soil be arrested.
“We are members of Interpol, and we are therefore under obligation to cooperate whenever we are asked to arrest a suspect. We have been asking some member states to arrest fugitives residing there and some have already been apprehended,” Allain Mukurarinda, who represented the Prosecution, said. Judge Valens Nkurunziza ruled that the Prosecution failed to convince court that Ndengeye could flee, adding that the tycoon had no case to answer in Rwanda.
Brussels Appeals Court convicted Ndengeye to counterfeiting of foreign bank notes, fraud, money laundering, forgery and use of forged passport and public use of false names.
However, Mukurarinda argued that it would be an embarrassment to Rwanda if Ndengeye fled despite the country receiving the arrest warrant.
He cited articles 2 and 31 of Interpol, which he said binds Rwanda to arrest and detain wanted fugitives pending details from the requesting nation.
The Prosecution says that following the arrest warrant of December 10 and the eventual detention of Ndengeye, the Rwandan police wrote to their Belgian counterparts asking them to provide the necessary documents and suggest the way forward, but that the latter were yet to give sufficient response.
Mukurarinda explained: “That is why we decided to request court to detain him for 30 days as we wait to receive those details. However, that has nothing to do with the culpability of the wanted person or the legal implications of the case itself.
“When you receive an Interpol Red notice requesting for immediate arrest of someone who is on your territory, what you do as a member state is to immediately implement the red notice, and then other legal processes follow.”
The Prosecutor General, Martin Ngoga concurred.
He said: “Our pursuit of this matter is based on our obligations under the relevant instruments governing international judicial cooperation. The outcome will depend on how our internal judicial process develops. These internal instruments respect relevant laws of individual countries, therefore there is no legal vacuum.”
According to the arrest warrant against Ndegeye, who returned to the country from Belgium in December, 2006, “On April 3, 2000, (Ndengeyingoma) committed a black money fraud (after) he claimed the false name of Leon Zimba, to be interested in a house.
(He) enticed the vendor by proposing an extremely high price before holding out the possibility of substantial profits if the vendor lent him enough money to buy chemical products to wash notes blackened by the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) back to their initial aspect.”
“He claimed to have loans of such dollars, but that the products were expensive. He swindled the victim of a total sum of 1,830,000 Belgian Francs (that is 45,364.52 euros) and a Breitling watch, the value of which is estimated at Euro 20,467. Ndengeyingoma (also) committed facts of money laundering: He bought cars in cash and had them registered to the names of men of straw to conceal the fraudulent origin of the funds,” the document indicates.
The 41-year-old Rwandan and father-of-three said that he didn’t escape Belgian justice. He argued that much as he was aware of the ongoing court case, he was not informed of the trial and judgment date.
“I asked them to repeat the trail and it was granted. I will leave on January 12, and appear in court on January 14,” he said, although acknowledging that he could be arrested as soon as he stepped in Belgium.
Ndengeye, best known for his expensive new model cars – something he said he is not comfortable with –, denied committing any of the aforementioned charges. He instead blamed most of his troubles on some Rwandans living in Belgium and Belgians.
“I don’t booze and you could never find me in a bar, something that earned me hatred from some Rwandans in Belgium. I was also disliked by whites because I never showed the kind of despair that normally characterizes most Africans living in the West. That is how people started to frame all sorts of accusations against me; at one time they said that I deal in drugs,” he claimed.
About the source of his wealth, Ndengeye said that his poor family background inspired him to work hard and be shrewd and innovative in life.
He also pointed to his knowledge in art and design.
“When I graduated from Insitut de Bon Arts in Kinshasa (in DRC), I got a new mindset.
In addition, when I was a kid during primary school (in Gisenyi) days, other pupils had a song in which they mocked me saying that “Ndengeye’s father” was once a rich man, but that he was no more. But that inspired me instead,” he said. He spent five years at the Congolese institute before returning to Rwanda in 1990.