Missing US $50 million corruption – firearms, ammunition and terrorism cases |26 March 2022
Independent attorney to oversee issues of LPP regarding Laura Valabhji
An independent attorney will be appointed to deal with matters of Legal Professional Privilege (LPP) concerning accused Laura Valabhji in the case of the missing US $50 million donated to Seychelles in 2002 by the Abu Dhabi government.
Being a lawyer by profession, Mrs Valabhji claimed that documents seized at her workplace and on her person after her arrest are subjected to LPP, while she also requested a detailed list of all seized electronic equipment from which she will, again decide, which ones are subjected to professional privilege.
The request for an independent body to deal with the issue of LPP in the case was filed through a motion by attorney Tony Juliette who is representing the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS).
As part of the conditions set by Chief Justice Rony Govinden, the independent lawyer will be jointly instructed by both the ACCS and the defence, with the two parties jointly paying the fee.
Legal Professional Privilege or LPP protects against the disclosure of confidential communications (including documents) between a client and a lawyer made for the dominant purpose of seeking legal advice or for use in existing or anticipated litigation.
It is important because confidential communications and documents that are subject to LPP do not normally need to be disclosed to other parties in litigation.
Communications can be a range of different things including emails, investigation reports, statements, analytical documents, diary notes of meetings or conversations, letters and written advice.
As for disclosure of evidence to the defence by the ACCS, Chief Justice Govinden set several deadlines, including a third batch of disclosed evidence which should be submitted by Tuesday March 29.
Amendments to the charges – if any – should also be filed by March 29, while a detailed list or inventory of all evidences – excluding firearms – seized on the Valabhji property at Morne Blanc should be made available.
Representing herself, Mrs Valabhji made known that several court orders, including meeting up with her husband Mukesh Valabhji – first accused in the case – to work on their joint defence has been halted by the police.
She noted that there has been significant delays in the delivery of disclosed evidence in support of the charges by the ACCS which she said failed to stick to the given timeline set by the court.
Bail request in the case by Mrs Valabhji was also denied by Chief Justice Govinden, along with the reviewing of the bail conditions of the fourth accused in the case Sarah Rene who is being represented by attorney Joel Camille.
Mrs Rene’s bail is set at US $2 million with two sureties of US $1 million each for the offence of money laundering and concealment of property.
Chief Justice Govinden reminded the court that the charges and circumstances remain the same.
The six suspects in the case are Laura Valabhji (accused of money laundering and concealment of property), Mukesh Valabhji (accused of conspiracy to commit official corruption, two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, several counts for stealing and official corruption charges and concealment of property), Leslie Benoiton (accused of official corruption, money laundering charges, concealment of property, and stealing by person in public service), Sarah Rene (accused of money laundering and concealment of property), Maurice Loustau-Lalanne (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 – official corruption and two counts of stealing), Lekha Nair (accused of corruption and aiding and abetting theft) and Fahreen Rajan (accused of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering, along with concealment of property).
They will reappear before the court on Friday April 8.
The valabhji couple, along with Leslie Benoiton, former Chief of the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF) Leopold Payet, retired lieutenant colonel and presidential chief security officer Frank Marie are also facing charges related to arms, ammunition and alleged conspiracy to commit terrorism matter before the Supreme Court.