Global payment company MasterCard, Kenyan bank I&M Bank and Rwandese government have been dragged to the East Africa Court of Justice (EACJ) on allegations of gross violation of human rights.
In a petition filed by two individuals- a Ugandan and a Rwandese, on behalf of 150 others, Mastercard, I&M and Rwanda Investigation Bureau are accused of complicity in the arbitrary arrest, detention, extortion and torture.
“That on or around January 2023 Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RBI), an investigation organ of Rwanda arrested and detained over 100 Rwanda residents who were customers of MasterCard/I&M for more than 3 months without trial, extorted from them, confiscated their property and denied them bail.”
All the victims were clients of MasterCard/ I&M as users of the MasterCard Multicurrency Prepaid Card issued by the I&M Bank (Rwanda).
The case has been filed by Ssemakula Ali Abaas and Nyinawumuntu Laetitia on behalf of themselves and other victims. They are represented by Kenyan law firm McDonald and Company Advocates.
Its alleged that between November 2022 and January 2023, I&M Rwanda issued the Prepaid MasterCards to the applicants.
The card allowed the holder to hold different currencies in different wallets on the same card. The card also allowed the holder to pay for goods and services from merchants displaying the sign corresponding to that appearing on his or her card.
The card also allowed the holder to “withdraw bank notes in Rwanda in local currency, and abroad, in currency of the country concerned, from member banks, financial institutions and Automated Teller Machines (ATM) displaying the sign Mastercard.
While using the cards, the applicants discovered that they could make profit by buying and selling the currencies in their respective wallets. The trade was so lucrative that some players made millions of dollars in profit and began living lavish lifestyles which attracted the attention of Rwanda authorities.
The first applicant was one such trader. On 9th January 2023, he was arrested at the Gatuna Rwanda/ Uganda border while on his way to Kampala. He was accompanied by 3 Uganda nationals.
After their arrest, RBI proceeded to detain them and also with help from Mastercard and I&M identified and arrested other 150 card holders who were also involved in the forex trade.
They were totured, their bank accounts emptied, cash forcibly taken from them and then detained without trial.