Monday, July 13, 2009

Catholic Priest Dragged Court Over Missing Funds

Original article

Father Innocent Consolateur of the famous St Famille parish in Kigali has been arraigned before Nyarugenge Court of Lower Instance for allegedly embezzling over Rwf400m meant for several beneficiaries.

The clergyman is charged alongside Gerald Ndamage and Faustin Ngendahayo who are senior lay-leaders of the charity organisation Italia Solidale.

According to the charge sheet, the priest is accused of abuse of trust while the duo is accused of ethnic prejudice.

Basing on an audit that was carried out on the orders of the Supreme Court, Rwf 400m remains unaccounted for from the Rwf 2 billion donated by Italian church-affiliated NGO, Italia Solidale.

“Father Consolateur was heading the Italia Solidale in Rwanda and diverted large sums of money that came from the donors in Italy.”

Gallican Sakindi the State Prosecutor told the court. Defence lawyer Christopher Niyomugabo capitalized on a technical loophole saying that the audit report can’t be considered as evidence as it was not signed by the auditors hence requesting the report to be nullified.

According to Niyomugabo, the abuse of trust begins at a time when two parties have an agreement and one fails to accomplish what he/she was supposed deliver but no single beneficiary had entered into an agreement with the cleric.

Father Consolateur who faces one charge of abuse of trust pleaded not guilty saying he had no connection to the funds.

According to witnesses the other two defendants incited ethnic divisionism.

Both Ndamage and Ngendahayo pleaded not guilty to the charge.
“I personally heard Ndamage saying those ethnic discrimination-related words but they have not mentioned it in court, neither have they called me to testify. Something is wrong somewhere,” said one witness who wasn’t allow to testify.

According to one of the beneficiaries, Monique Katabogama, the court has been slow in administering justice. “There is some sort of injustice, they are not allowing us to testify, we have all the supporting documents accompanying our claims,” Katabogama complained.

“They have said the beneficiaries complaining are stubborn and refused advice from the management to write project proposals in order to begin small scale businesses and stop depending on donors. But I made a project proposal of selling timber but they never did anything about it.”

The court presided over by Judge Lawrence Nyirankuriza ruled that the verdict will be read on August 7, 2008 at 2:00 pm.

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