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Prosecution: Rwandan’s ‘business’ was assassination

- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 21, 2012

JOHANNESBURG A South African police detective testified that a Rwandan businessman offered police a $1 million bribe to free him after his arrest on suspicion of bankrolling an assassination attempt against an exiled dissident Rwandan general.

The trial of those accused of trying to kill Rwandan Lt. Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa in a June 2010 shooting has exposed a growing web of financial and political intrigue involving Rwanda and South Africa.

Leonard Kanye of the Johannesburg Organized Crimes unit testified in court on Monday that he arrested Rwandan suspect Pascal Kanyandekwe at the Johannesburg airport soon after the attempted killing.

He said the Rwandan offered the money while handcuffed in the back of a police car. His seized baggage contained two passports and photographs of two of five other suspects on trial for the attempted killing.

All six men have pleaded innocent.

The trial resumed Monday for two weeks of testimony after a lengthy series of hearings.

Mr. Kanye said Mr. Kanyandekwe arrived at the Johannesburg airport from Rwanda on July 2, 2010. A police officer sent to the airport to find him called his mobile number and claimed to be a driver sent to pick him up.

In the unmarked police car, Mr. Kanyandekwe was arrested and read his rights.

Mr. Kanye, a 17-year veteran of the police service, said Mr. Kanyandekwe became edgy and "said we mustn't arrest him. He would give us $1 million" if he was taken instead to the Johannesburg district of Kyalami.

Prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said the contents of the Rwandan's luggage included a key "almost identical" to one recovered from another arrested Rwandan suspect, Amani Uriwani, an out-of-work truck driver allegedly recruited for his contacts with other Rwandans and African immigrants in South Africa.

Mr. Kayandekwe, 30, says he was setting up businesses in South Africa.

But Mr. Kanye said his two passports, one identifying him as a national of Belgium, Rwanda's former colonial ruler, and the other as a Rwandan, showed he came to South Africa for the first time just before the attempted killing.

He entered South Africa twice after the shooting and again flew from Rwanda to Johannesburg on the day of his arrest.

Photographs of his alleged accomplices in his luggage showed they were printed by a digital photo store in Burundi's capital of Bujumbura.

The Rwandan government has denied involvement in the assassination attempt outside the Johannesburg home of Gen. Nyamwasa, a former Rwandan military chief who has become a sharp critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame since coming to South Africa in 2010.

But Rwandans in exile have accused Mr. Kagame of using his agents to hunt down his external foes.

Gen. Nyamwasa and dissident leaders accuse Mr. Kagame of crushing opponents and trampling on democracy after helping to end the genocide that left 500,000 people dead in 1994.

Mr. Kagame was re-elected in 2010, months after Gen. Nyamwasa was shot.

Last year, Gen. Nyamwasa was among four former Kagame aides in exile in South Africa and the United States who were convicted in their absence by a Rwandan military court for disturbing public order, sectarianism, criminal conspiracy and threatening state security.

South African prosecutors have said key witnesses in the politically and diplomatically sensitive trial have sought police protection in South Africa because they fear Rwanda's government.

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