Third suspect in missing US $50 million proceeding on remand |23 November 2021
The third suspect, a high-ranking army official arrested on Sunday in connection with the US $50 million donated to Seychelles in 2002 which was subsequently allegedly misappropriated, is to remain in remand custody until December 3, where he will reappear in court.
The suspect, whose arrest follows that of a prominent businessman and his wife last Thursday, appeared before Chief Justice (CJ) Rony Govinden at the Supreme Court both in the morning and afternoon, as the Anti-Corruption Commission Seychelles (ACCS), through private lawyer Tony Juliette filed an application to further detain him, pending further investigation.
As explained before the court by lawyer Juliette, the suspect is alleged to have been involved in money-laundering as the recipient of US $100,000 in September 2004, with the funds somehow linked to the missing US $50 million.
With regard to the “extensive caches of weapons and ammunition” found at the home of the first suspect, a close associate of the senior Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF) official, Mr Juliette noted a substantial amount of military-grade weapons including Draco AK-47 rifles and grenade launchers, and an amount of ammunition branded with the name of the third suspect.
He proposed that the two suspects have financial connections and that the third arrested may be benefitting from pecuniary benefits in connection with the discovered arms. Moreover, he averred that there is no justification for the use of weapons in a civilian setting, going further to draw court’s attention to the first suspect’s efforts to conceal the weapons.
Court was also at this point informed of a ‘certificate’ by which the third suspect was allegedly importing arms and ammunition, although it remains unclear who, how, when, why or where the certification was issued, and whether the document was retrieved from the first suspect’s home or that of the suspect himself.
In delivering his ruling during the afternoon, CJ Govinden ruled in favour of the prosecution, rejecting grounds proposed by the suspect’s attorney Basil Hoareau as to why his client should be granted bail with certain conditions.
CJ Govinden dismissed the point that the prosecution’s averment of money laundering is unlawful, as the offence was not provided for by Seychelles’ legal framework until 2006. In fact, CJ Govinden stated that the law providing for money laundering offences was promulgated in 1998.
In consideration of the two cases before court involving the first and second suspects, and the “business, financial and personal relationship” between them, CJ Govinden said he was satisfied with the averment forwarded by prosecution that the third suspect through his rank in the defence forces has access to military grade weapons either directly or indirectly. The ‘import certificate’ in question may also be linked to other offences he said, necessitating that the authorities be allowed some time to investigate further. At this point, the CJ noted that the search for weapons was still ongoing at the property of the first and second suspects, due to ‘the sophistication of the construction and secret rooms thrown into the mix as proposed by prosecution.
“The facts and circumstances are very serious,” CJ Govinden stated.
As with the first two suspects, bail was also denied because there is a possibility that the suspect may if released on bail, abscond and escape the course of justice, or that he interferes with the ongoing investigations and obstruct the course of justice.
According to Mr Juliette, the authorities require some time to conduct further enquiries, issue and act upon search warrants, make further arrests, analysis of electronic gadgets and devices, and to request assistance from international partners.
The third suspect will be appearing in court on the same day, and at the same time that the two first suspects, meaning there is a possibility that they are tried as co-accused.
The US $50 million was a donation from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government to the Republic of Seychelles in 2002 to buy food products, although the funds were never used for its intended purpose.