Prominent Rwandan businessman Barry Ndengeyingoma, best known as Ndengeye, has been arrested and imprisoned in a country where he was sentenced to three years in prison last July.
Information available from the Office of the Prosecutor General indicates that Ndengeye, who last year basked in glory in Kigali thanks to his fleet of expensive luxurious cars, was arrested in Paris, France on January 13, and transferred to Brussels, Belgium on January 30 where he is currently incarcerated.
"Brussels has informed us that they have him," Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga, said yesterday from his office at Kimihurura, ending weeks of speculation about the whereabouts of the tycoon, who was on December 31, 2007, freed by a Kigali court after eighteen days in police custody.
The Belgian police further said that Ndengeye also faces a new charge, but they gave no details.
Ndengeye, 41, had been arrested in Kigali following an Interpol Red Notice and a European arrest warrant in connection with crimes he allegedly committed when he was still in Europe before returning to Rwanda in December 2006.
However, Gasabo Higher Instance Court judge Valens Nkurunziza quashed the Prosecution’s request to detain the mogul for 30 days pending legal procedures between Rwanda, Belgium and Interpol, and ordered for his immediate release.
The judge had ruled that not only had the businessman\ no case to answer in Rwandan courts, the constitution also barred any extradition of a Rwandan to another country.
Brussels Appeals Court in July sentenced Ndengeye to three years in prison for among others, money laundering, counterfeiting, forgery and impersonation.
"Ndengeyingoma was arrested on Januay 01, 2008 at 06:40hrs at Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport (in France) en route from Kinshasa. He was transferred to Brussels on January 30, 2008 where he is currently detained at Forest Prison," reads a correspondence from Interpol Brussels to Interpol Kigali.
The news was well received by the Rwandan prosecution which had already appealed the decision to release Ngengeye, who also owns a hotel in Rubavu District and had just opened a state-of-the-art discotheque in the upscale Nyarutarama suburb of Kigali.
Ngoga said the development had now rendered the local prosecution’s appeal to the High Court irrelevant, adding that his office would now proceed to withdraw the case from court.
Aware of his flight schedule, Rwandan prosecutors alerted Interpol offices in both Paris and Brussels about Ndengeye’s itinerary, resulting into the arrest.
"Kindly be informed that the above mentioned subject (Ndengeye) is on the way to Brussels or Paris from Ndjili International Airport/Kinshasa, if so inform NCB (Interpol office) Kigali," reads one of the correspondences exchanged in the run up to the businessman’s apprehension.
It remains unclear whether Ndengeye was planning to connect to Brussels from Paris although there are suggestions that he could have been trying to escape.
Ndengeye, who was in Rwanda at the time the Brussels Appeals Court passed the judgment, had told The New Times shortly after his release that he would travel to Brussels and appear before the same court for a re-trial on January 14.
It also remains shrouded in uncertainty why Ndengeye did not depart from Kigali International Airport despite the existence of a direct flight from Kigali to Brussels twice a week.
Instead, Ndengeye is said to have traveled by road to Kinshasa from where he boarded a Paris-bound plane.
He is accused of concealing his true identity by publicly using false names, stealing vehicles and a Breitling watch, among others.
However, Ndengeye denies the charges and saying he is only a victim of sheer malice. He also said that his conviction was also partly because he was not personally present at the hearing, adding that his co-accused in the same case was acquitted.
When The New Times phoned Ndengeye’s Belgian fiancée, Samia, who is in Kigali, for a comment, she instead hang up. Meanwhile, Ngoga said there are no plans to attach Ndengeye’s assets, which include a Hummer, a limousine and other 4X4 vehicles, since no such request has been made by a competent organ.
Ndengeye, who left Rwanda in 1994 and arrived in Belgium about three years later where he established himself with his wife and three children before the couple separated, says he accumulated his wealth through "smart dealings" in artisan products and real estate.