ACCS US $50 million investigation Fourth accused granted bail, fifth on remand |25 November 2021
• All to reappear in court alongside one another
The fourth and fifth suspects arrested in connection with the US $50 million corruption case under investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission Seychelles (ACCS) were produced before Chief Justice (CJ) Rony Govinden of the Supreme Court yesterday.
Both suspects, a woman and a man, both former government officials, were arrested separately at their respective residences on Tuesday November 23. The woman was granted bail on conditions, while the man remains in remand custody. Both are to reappear before court on Friday December 3, alongside the other three suspects, who appeared before court earlier this week and last week.
In ruling on the remand applications, CJ Govinden granted the fourth accused, the woman bail, on condition that she surrenders passports and all travel documents to court, pay a bail sum of R50,000, as well as having to present at the Beau Vallon police station on Monday, weekly.
Considering that attorney for both suspects Basil Hoareau resisted the remand application on the basis that no prima facie case was established, CJ Govinden accepted his argument that the suspect at the time of the alleged misappropriation of the US $50 million Abu Dhabi grant, sought approval from the then Minister for Finance through the principal secretary of the ministry. Mr Hoareau also contended that she relied on written instructions from the Financial Controller in effecting the transfer from the government account to the new Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB) Baroda bank account in London, allegedly set up by the first accused in relation to the misappropriated funds.
It must be noted that at the time, the first accused, who appeared before court on Friday, was the Economic Advisor to the President. According to the fourth suspect's version, as told by her legal representative, the suspect received a call from the first accused with instructions to transfer the funds to the SMB account, which was followed by a memo from an SMB member detailing the recipient account at the Baroda bank.
Although it was argued by ACCS private lawyer Tony Juliette that the suspect failed to verify the diverting account, CJ Govinden noted that “intention to participate in the suspected offence has to be evident”.
Furthermore, Mr Hoareau noted the fourth suspect’s account that the grant was not subject to disclosure was that unusually, the grant was not the subject matter of a note verbal, and that it was the role of the principal secretary to disclose such information, and not that of the suspect.
With regard to the fifth suspect, Mr Juliette in the application for remand made note of the fact that he at the time occupied a co-director position within the company through which the funds were then allegedly misappropriated again, and used for the purchase of hotels, with no dividends returning to government’s pockets, it is alleged.
Mr Juliette averred that as co-directors with the first accused, who he referred to as the “theft architect”, he should have been in a position to know that the transactions of the entity to which the funds were misappropriated, were not legitimate.
Counsel Hoareau had put forward to court that the fifth suspect had informed the authorities that he was not part of the decision-making process within the entity, but would rather be informed of decisions after they had been taken.
Considering the seriousness of the offence, especially money laundering which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, CJ Govinden said it is in the interest of the investigation to keep the suspect in remand, while the relevant authorities progress with the investigation.
Both will reappear in court alongside other suspects on December 3.
Commissioner of the ACCS, May De Silva, issued a declaration to the media following the hearing, in which she reassured of the commission’s independence in conducting the investigation, and prosecuting suspects involved in the alleged corruption.
“ACCS has been conducting the investigation for a long time. We want our investigations to be just and what we are presenting to the court are facts. We are operating in accordance with the law, and we are an independent institution who conduct our work with integrity, and we are not a partisan investigation,” she said.
“This is a really complex investigation. I always said that I am probably the most patient person in Seychelles over the past four years. The staff are supported by experts and specialists with the experience in handling corruption cases. I want the population to understand this. And we are following the law and the facts before us,” she stated.