NYARUGENGE - The case involving beneficiaries of the NGO Italia Solidale, who sued its officials for allegedly embezzling the organisations funds, was on Friday dismissed by the Nyarugenge Court of Lower Instance.
The court presided over by Judge Lawrence Nyirankuriza read the verdict amidst tension from Italia Solidale’s former beneficiaries. She ordered all frozen bank accounts of the NGO to be reopened.
As the judge read the court it observations and decisions, the petitioners started murmuring amongst themselves as it became clear that they were likely to lose the case.
The accused, Gerald Ndamage, Faustine Ngendahayo and Father Innocent Consolateur of St Famille parish in Kigali, were not present when the verdict was read.
“The court has found that there is no factual evidence to sustain your case,” the judge said as she read part of the verdict.
“It finds the audit report having no value, no agreements between beneficiaries and Italia Solidale. he project belongs to the diocese and the leaders of the project have not been mistrusted by their employers,” the Judge said as she explained the court’s stand on the evidence forwarded by the beneficiaries.
However, the judge said if they were not satisfied with the verdict, they had 30 days to appeal to a higher court.
The Supreme Court released an audit report indicating that leaders of the Church affiliated NGO not accounted for about Rwf 3bn meant for 2000 orphans.
Outside the court, angry beneficiaries gathered in small groups complaining that the Judge was unfair in her ruling.
“How can the Supreme Court make an audit report and it is neglected by a lower court?,” one unidentified old woman wondered.
“We had predicted this was going to happen. All our important evidence has been neglected, something is wrong somewhere,” said Jean Baptiste Ndoriyobijya, one of the beneficiaries.
Italia Solidale was set up in 1997. Years later, the NGO’s beneficiaries accused those in charge of allegedly using orphans as a means of raising billions of francs for their own enrichment.
In 2006, guardians of the orphans petitioned the Supreme Court to institute an independent audit into the alleged scam.
The same year, police arrested Gerald Ndamage and Faustin Ngendahayo —administrators of Rwanda Italia Solidale then — and brought them to court.
They were later provisionally released pending investigations into their case.