The High Court last month sentenced the former Director General of Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS), Dr. Tito Migabo, to seven and half years in prison on corruption charges, overturning an earlier verdict by a lower court which had set him free. He is now in Canada.
Migabo, who was arrested last May and released by the Nyarugenge Court of Higher Instance, skipped the country weeks after his acquittal saying he was going for treatment in Canada. He was found guilty by the High Court in a low-key hearing at the court’s seat in Nyamirambo.
“The prosecution appealed the lower court’s verdict and the High Court subsequently sentenced him to seven and a half years in jail. He was summoned three times but never appeared, forcing the court to proceed with the case in absentia,” the High Court Registrar, Olivier Rukundakuvuga, told The New Times yesterday. He said that High Court handed down the verdict on March 18.
“The Court found him guilty for breaching tendering process, favouritism and using false documents,” Rukundakuvuga said. The Cabinet last Friday confirmed Dr. Anastase Kimonyo as Migabo’s replacement at RBS.
Rukundakuvuga added that the High Court, also sentenced three other co-accused in the case, but two of them – both Migabo’s former subordinates – were handed suspended sentences.
He said Jean-Paul Maniriho, Migabo’s farm manager, was sentenced to two years in prison for having signed a contract in which Migabo awarded him- through a ghost company, Maniraguha Technical Services- a tender to build RBS’ playground.
“They were both found guilty of creating a ghost company and signing a contract that awarded the tender to a non-existent firm,” the court official said.
And two other defendants in the same case, both of whom were RBS officers, Augustin Mwesigye, (director of Finance and Administration) and Chris Mwesigye (Estate and Recovery officer), were found to have “unintentionally” involved themselves in the irregularities by helping draft the illegal contract with the said ghost company, thus circumventing the normal tendering procedures.
The two, Rukundakuvuga said, were each sentenced to two years and six months, but their sentence was commuted into a two-year suspended sentence.
This means they will not be put behind bars for but risk serving the corresponding time should they be convicted on other crimes before that period expires.
Rukundakuvuga said the two officials had their sentences reduced because they cooperated with court by admitting wrongdoing and asking for forgiveness.
“They said they were involved with that process on the orders of their boss (Migabo) and that they personally had no interest in the deal. They were only protecting their jobs,” he said.
Migabo was also found guilty of awarding a tender to his friend, Angelique Uwingabire, to construct shelves for the Standard Development Unit library without involving the RBS’ internal tender committee as the law provides.
Prosecution had appealed the case saying that the Nyarugenge Court of Higher Instance had not taken into account their evidence.
While it was not clear by press time whether Maniriho had also left the country like Migabo, it has now become a common practice for people – either on bail or acquitted by lower courts – to leave the country, only to be convicted in absentia.