Bank, payment platform accused of extortion, detention

Thursday, February 22nd, 2024 00:48 | By
Different currencies. PHOTO/Print
Different currencies. PHOTO/Print

Global payment company MasterCard, local I&M Bank and Rwandese government have been dragged to the East Africa Court of Justice (EACJ) over allegations of extortion, illegal detention and torture of 150 cardholders without trial and gross violation of human rights.

In a class-action lawsuit filed by two individuals, a Ugandan and a Rwandese, on behalf of 150 other users of the multi-currency card at the Regional court, MasterCard, I&M and Rwanda Investigation Bureau are accused of complicity in the arbitrary arrest, detention, extortion and torture of users of the MasterCard Multicurrency Prepaid Card.

The applicants namely Ssemakula Ali Abaas and Nyinawumuntu Laetitia who are being represented by Kenyan law firm McDonald and Company Advocates contend that on or around January 2023, Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RBI), an investigation organ of the Rwandan government, arrested and detained them together with other over 100 Rwandese residents who were customers of MasterCard/I&M for more than three months without trial. The RBI officers extorted from them, confiscated their property and denied them without bail.

According to the lawyer, all the victims who were clients of MasterCard/ I&M as users of the MasterCard Multi-currency Prepaid Card issued by the I&M Bank have been detained in Rwanda without trial over alleged banking fraud, money laundering and illicit enrichment.

“The dispute at hand centres on a group of Rwandan Citizens/Residents who entered into a Bank/Customer relationship with I&M Bank Rwanda PLC when the bank issued them with a Mastercard Multi-Currency card,” said McDonald, a Kenyan advocate.

It is alleged that between November 2022 and January 2023, I&M Rwanda issued the Prepaid MasterCards to the victims.

The card allowed the holders to hold up to 17 different currencies in different wallets on the same card. It is said that 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.

“One of the benefits as advertised in the bank’s website is that a card holder could shift one currency to another within the card’s sub-wallets. A comparison between the rates offered by the bank and those on the MasterCard platform revealed that the latter offered favourable rates,” Abaas and Laetitia state in their affidavits filed in court.

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