The Rwandan authorities are moving to confiscate properties belonging to the Rwigaras, one of Rwanda’s richest families, over a controversial tax liability claim.
Many say this is President Paul Kagame’s latest gambit to cripple the lady who dared contest against him politically.
There is a threat to seize and auction the Rwigara family properties to settle an outstanding tax bill of about USD 6million about 5billion Rwandan Francs.
The revenue authorities accuse the Rwigara family of engaging in tax evasion and there are reports the authorities are targeting the posh family mansion in Kiyovu among the properties to be sold off to cover the tax liability.
The seizure is slated to be effected in the next two weeks.
The Rwigara’s are some of Rwanda’s richest families and have a dealership of Premier Tobacco, posh residential properties land and vehicles.
Commissioner General of Rwanda Revenue Authority Richard Tusabe said: “If they (Rwigaras) have not paid the tax by the end of November, we shall begin to put their properties on the market.” He added that the public auction could however be stayed in a payment plan in agreed witht he tax authorities.
According to the East African a regional business newspaper, banks which the Rwigaras owe money were also seizing property the family put up as collateral with plans to auction it.
But the family maintains that the charges are politically motivated and aimed at silencing their criticism of government and to bankrupt them. In a court session last month, the family business representative Anne Rwigara, a sister of Diane Rwigara — who was disqualified from the presidential race in August — told judges that tax authorities had tried to force her to sign a payment plan that she found impossible to abide by.
The payment plan, she said, demanded that the family pay up to Rwf6 billion ($7 million) in 12 months, even though the RRA had closed their tobacco company — their main source of income — over tax evasion claims.
The taxman maintains that the family has been evading taxes from as far back as 2012, which is a “habit” that provided justification for strict measures on recovering the money they owe.
Although the Rwanda Public Prosecution Authority had excluded tax evasion from the dossier of charges it presented at the family’s pre-trial hearing, RRA said it had continued to investigate the claim behind the scenes.
“This is purely a tax matter which is followed up and investigated by the tax authority. You cannot mix the other problems they have in court with the tax evasion problems,” said Mr Tusabe.