By David Himbara
Global Magnitsky Act also empowers the US Department of Treasury to hold accountable individuals who facilitate corrupt and human rights abusers around the world. General Paul Kagame has a group financial facilitators that should be held accountable per Global Magnitsky Act.
General Paul Kagame continues to plunge Rwanda into deeper repression at home and abroad. Paul Rusesabagina, a Rwandan who lived in the US was lured from the United States and resurfaced in Kigali prison. Many young people in Rwanda are disappearing at an alarming rate including poets, musicians and YouTubers who voice the regime’s human rights atrocities. The US is so alarmed by Rwanda’s atrocities that in January 2021 it called upon the Kagame government to “independently and transparently investigate credible allegations of unlawful or arbitrary arrests and detentions, killings, and enforced disappearances of human rights defenders, political opponents, and journalists.” Meanwhile, Human rights activists appear paralyzed and unable to respond let alone stop Kagame’s latest onslaught. Yet, there is a range of tools to fight back – special thanks to Madhav Narayan, a dynamic human rights activist from Chicago, who recently reminded me of one of the tools at our disposal.
A case in point is the power of the US Department of the Treasury. The Treasury is not only responsible for protecting the US and international financial systems from those who engage in corruption and human rights abuses. The Treasury also holds accountable the individuals who facilitate corrupt and human rights abusers around the world. Put another way, under an Executive Order implementing the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016, Treasury enforces action against financial facilitators of corrupt foreign political figures. These facilitators are also known as Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs). Corrupt rulers amass fortunes through PEPs who play key roles in the misappropriation of state assets, money laundering, embezzlement of state funds, and other corrupt activities.
Global Magnitsky Act is a powerful tool for fighting back against Kagame’s onslaught. Kagame has a group financial facilitators that should be held accountable per Global Magnitsky Act. Top of the list is Marc Holtzman whom Kagame made the chairman of the government-owned Bank of Kigali in 2009. Holtzman owns shares in the bank as well as in Crystal Telecom, which is a subsidiary of the ruling party’s business empire, Crystal Ventures Ltd. Kagame granted Holtzman Rwandan citizenship in 2017. Bob Diamond at one time purchased two government-owned banks, namely, part of the Rwanda Development Bank and Bank Populaire. Clet Niyikiza, Micheal Porter, and Micheal Fairbanks were parties to the scheme in which Kagame ploughed US$10 million of Rwanda’s pension funds into an American startup company, Merrimack in 2008. These resources remain unaccounted for since the company more or less collapsed. Meanwhile, Kagame’s Rwanda featured in the 2020 World Bank’s report on how elites from poor aid-dependent countries loot foreign aid. The Rwandan elites – read Paul Kagame – stashed US$190 million of foreign aid into offshore accounts. There can be no doubt that these men facilitating Kagame are Politically Exposed Persons. It is time to apply the full weight of Global Magnitsky Act to Kagame’s American financial facilitators.