The East African Court of Justice has awarded exiled Rwandan businessman Tribert Rujugiro $1 million after it found that the Kigali government violated the East African Community Treaty when it took over and sold his shopping mall.
The ruling was delivered on Tuesday. The award attracts an interest of six percent every year until Rwanda makes the payment to Mr Rujugiro in full.
Rwanda’s Justice ministry Permanent Secretary, Theophile Mbonera, termed the ruling disappointing and said they would appeal on the grounds that the plaintiff had no legal reason to sue.
The Union Trade Centre (UTC) was put under statutory management after the government classified it as an “abandoned property” in 2013, four years after the majority owner Tribert Rujugiro fled Rwanda. He owned 97 percent.
The EACJ had awarded UTC $500,000 in general damages and the cost of the suit in 2020 but declined to award compensation for the sold mall. The UTC mall’s value was estimated at $10 million.
Rwanda appealed the ruling.
In 2013, UTC petitioned the regional court, challenging the government’s actions to take over the mall’s management and directing tenants to pay rent into the unclaimed property agency bank account.
Rwanda had said the mall was an abandoned property and was auctioned by the taxman to recover taxes, actions taken in accordance with domestic laws.
The court, however, said the state agencies’ actions were not people-centred and not market-driven, an operational principle of the EAC under the Treaty.
The mall was auctioned in September 2017 for Rwf6,877,150,000 ($6.87 million).
Mr Rujugiro left Rwanda for South Africa in 2009 after battling tax evasion and money laundering charges in the United Kingdom.
He is also accused of financing an exiled opposition group, Rwanda National Congress, cited for terrorism activities in Rwanda and DR Congo.
The parties in Court were represented by Mr. Nicholas Ntarugera for the AG Rwanda and Counsel Francis Gimara and Hannington Amol representing the Respondent.