Lawyer Frank Elizabeth to no longer represent Mukesh and Laura Valabhji |29 January 2022
Foreign lawyers Jonathan Hutt and Mirenda Ching not eligible to perform duties
The court had granted an application filed by lawyer Frank Elizabeth for him to no longer represent Mukesh Valabhji (suspect number 1) and his wife Laura Valabhji (suspect number 2) in the case of the missing US $50 million and illegal possession of arms, ammunition and alleged conspiracy to commit terrorism.
It was Chief Justice (CJ) Rony Govinden who granted him the application during a court session yesterday morning in which Mrs Valabhji had to defend herself and her husband, Mukesh Valabhji, with regard to the above cases.
“It is in my opinion my lord, that I can no longer provide effective legal representation to my clients and that it would be in their best interest to find alternative legal representation,” said Mr Elizabeth, who noted that he had had a conversation on the matter with his clients and that they would represent themselves in the meantime.
Mrs Valabhji did confirm the statement made by lawyer Elizabeth and she asked CJ Govinden for three to four weeks to seek for their legal representation, especially if it has to come from abroad.
She also asked the court to consider for her husband (Mukesh) to be moved from the Takamaka police station to the remand centre at Montagne Posée prison, for them to be able to better organise to get alternative counsellors and will also be more convenient for the latter to visit them in one place.
She further asked for her bail application to be adjourned to three to four weeks in order to seek the services of either local or overseas counsellors for instructions and to prepare her bail application.
She also requested they be granted a conversation, either online or pre-recorded, with one of their daughters who is studying in Singapore and with whom they haven’t had any contact since they have been placed in custody.
State counsellor Steven Powles told the court that Mr Valabhji must remain in detention at the Takamaka police station in view of the large cache of arms and ammunitions found at his residence and him (Mukesh) being mixed up with other hard core criminals would pose a threat to national security.
In his ruling in the afternoon, CJ Govinden granted the Valabhjis the permission to seek their legal advisors.
He also requested that the police allow Mr Valabhji to communicate with his daughter in Singapore, subject to the security protocols of the Seychelles Police Force.
Mr Valabhji’s request through his wife that he is remanded closer to her at Montagne Posée was denied.
Earlier in the morning, CJ Goviden gave reasons as to why foreign lawyers Jonathan Hutt and Mirenda Ching (who have already left the country) could not represent Mr and Mrs Valabhji in court.
He said that Mr Hutt (an American) could not be called to the Seychelles bar as he comes from a non-commonwealth country.
He noted that he was in Seychelles as a visitor and he had no right to intervene on behalf of Mr and Mrs Valabhji.
With regard to lawyer Ching (a British citizen), CJ Govinden said that she did make an application to be given the right of audience to represent the Valabhjis and that he (CJ) made an order that she could practice only if she was granted a Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP).
He noted that lawyer Ching had no such permit and so she had no right of audience in their case and also has no right to interfere, in any way whatsoever as a counsel, vis-a vis any other persons or authorities.
All suspects facing charges in the case of the missing US $50million will appear in court on February 4, 2022. They include Leslie Benoiton (suspect number 3) and Sarah Rene (suspect number 4) who were present in court, and Maurice Loustau-Lalanne (suspect number 5) and Lekha Nair (suspect number 6) who were not present as they were excused by the court.