Tribert Ayabatwa Rujugiro is widely believed to be the richest businessman in Rwanda. Whether this is true or not, it is hard to quantify. This is because there is no mechanism like the one employed by Forbes magazine to rank the richest people in the world.
Towards the end of last week, news filtered through that he had been detained in London. It emerged he had been arrested at Heathrow airport on October 13 and released on bail three days later.
Rujugiro was arrested following an arrest warrant issued by South Africa. He was quoted in the media saying that he was ordered not to leave the United Kingdom until a UK magistrates court rules on the extradition request.
The extradition request is based on issues related to taxes he has with the South African Revenue Services (SARS). He has stated that he is innocent of any tax related issues and says the prosecution has a weak case and this is why they have been postponing the case.
According to media reports Rujugiro has “substantial business interests in many countries including South Africa”. He has interests in the tobacco industry and suspects that his business competitors in the tobacco industry are out to get him.
He was quoted saying, “it is well known that a prosecutor of the Eastern Rand Province is on BAT’s payroll”.
BAT is the British American Tobacco multinational with vast interests in the tobacco industry. His latest woes aside, Rujugiro is a man who is widely admired especially in Rwanda for his business acumen. More over, he comes off as a down to earth person, who despite his immense wealth and busy schedule is easily approachable; he will always find time to answer emails from reporters whether he is in the country or traveling abroad.
According to media reports, his business interests can be found in all sub-Sahara Africa countries, the UK, Dubai and Libya.
The mention of Rujugiro cannot go down without the mention of the Union Trade Center (UTC) in Kigali in which he has shares.
The building has in fact been named after him. Anyone going to UTC will say I am going to “kwa rujugiro” and a motor rider or taxi driver will know where to go.
Rujugiro was also key to formation of the Rwanda Investment Group (RIG). This is a group of over 40 local business men that seeks to champion the development of the country through fostering local investment.
Rujugiro is one of the several Rwandans who fled to exile following the 1959 anti Tutsi pogroms and Genocide that saw many people leave the country and take on the status of refugees for more than thirty years. He is said to have spent many years of his life in Burundi where he has several business interests.
He hails from Nyanza in Butare Southern Province. Recently, he told reporters that he plans to build a Frw6 billion stadium in his home area as part of giving back to his community.
Rujugiro told the media late last year that his stadium will have a capacity of 37,000 people. The property mogul disclosed at the time that the proceeds from the stadium will go to a charity organisation he plans to set up. His revelations served to indicate his retirement plans.