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Missing US $50 million case Seventh suspect arrested |15 January 2022

A seventh suspect has been arrested in the corruption scandal involving the missing US $50 million donated to Seychelles in 2002 which was subsequently allegedly misappropriated.

The Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS) confirmed the arrest yesterday, adding that the person has been detained.

Meanwhile, the ACCS noted that another person is assisting them with their inquiries.

The money was a gift to Seychelles 20 years ago from the United Arab Emirates and it was intended to help the country overcome a foreign exchange shortage and to buy food products, although the funds were never used for its intended purpose.

Already, six other suspects arrested in connection with the missing US $50 million were formally charged before the Supreme Court on December 17, 2021.

Mukesh Valabhji (suspect number 1), a prominent businessman who was arrested together with his wife, faces numerous charges in the matter under investigation and prosecution by the ACCS. The accused, in 2002, at the time which the Abu Dhabi government granted the funds for the government of Seychelles, served as the director general of the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB), and director general of the Ministry of Finance.

Among the charges laid against him are: conspiracy to commit official corruption, two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, several counts for stealing and official corruption charges. Mr Valabhji will also be tried for concealment of property.

The second accused in the case, Laura Valabhji (suspect number 2), is also being tried for money laundering, and concealment of property.

Leslie Benoiton (suspect number 3) is an official of the Seychelles Defence Forces (SDF) and faces charges of official corruption, money laundering charges, concealment of property, and stealing by person in public service, contrary to the Penal Code.

The accused is alleged to have corruptly obtained US $100,000 by way of payment from the first suspect without lawful authority.

The three are also facing additional charges in a separate case under investigation by the Seychelles police, in relation to an extensive cache of weapons and ammunition allegedly discovered at the Valabhji’s home.

The fourth accused is Sarah Rene, wife of the late former President France Albert Rene who was in power at the time. She is facing two charges, namely money laundering and concealment of property.

Fifth accused, Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, served as a public servant and director of parastatal Cosproh at the time the money was allegedly misappropriated. He too is facing a number of charges and is accused of corruptly approving the devaluation of three hotels and to enable such properties to be purchased by the first accused at a price lower than the true and proper value of such properties. As such, he will be tried for official corruption, contrary to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act (2020), and two counts of stealing.

Lekha Nair (suspect number 6), former director general of the Ministry of Finance at the time, faces official corruption charges, after allegedly allowing the US $50 million intended for the government of Seychelles, for the personal and private use of the first suspect. Additionally, she will be tried for aiding and abetting theft.

Two further suspects ‒ 75-year-old retired Brigadier and former Chief of the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF) Leopold Payet, and 81-year-old retired lieutenant colonel and presidential chief security officer Frank Marie ‒ were arrested on Wednesday December 29, 2021 in connection with the arms, ammunition and alleged conspiracy to commit terrorism matter before the Supreme Court.

They remain in remand custody until January 28, 2022, when they will reappear before court.


Compiled by Gerard Govinden

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