Missing US $50 million corruption – Firearms, ammunition and terrorism cases |07 May 2022
Case adjourned to May 20 as ACCS waitsfor enactment of amendment Bills
There have been several new developments in the case of the missing US $50 million donated to Seychelles in 2002 by the Abu Dhabi government, following directions given to the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles by Chief Justice Rony Govinden on April 29.
After failure to comply, the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS) has made some proposals, including withdrawal of some of the charges, entering in agreement with some of the accused to become prosecution witnesses, and also substituting existing charges alleging offences under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act of 2020, with offences under the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 1996 and 2006.
The substitution of some charges relating to substantive offences with charges alleging conspiracy to commit offences under the 1996 and 2006 Penal Code has also been proposed by the ACCS.
Yesterday morning at the Supreme Court, the third accused in the case, namely Leslie Benoiton was referred to the Attorney General’s office –joining the firearms case – thus cleared of all charges in the missing US$ 50million case.
Mr Benoiton was previously charged with official corruption, money laundering, concealment of property and stealing by person in public service.
He is however on remand as accused in the firearms case, waiting to be tried for conspiracy to possess terrorist property, conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition, possession of terrorist property and possession of firearms and ammunition.
Representing the ACCS, counsel Edmund Vickers said the commission has not yet been able to file amended charges and asked for adjournment until May 20.
Mr Vickers explained that currently, prosecution under Anti-Money Laundering provisions may require involvement of the Attorney General’s (AG) Office in prosecuting the case, if the amended legislation bills presented before the National Assembly are not approved by the given date.
If approved before May 20, Mr Vickers noted that the ACCS would no longer need involvement of the AG in the prosecution.
Mr Vickers also explained that by delaying cause, the ACCS does not wish to oppose bail conditions, therefore asked the court to release all of the defendants in the case on bail subject to two conditions which are the surrendering of passports and prohibition from leaving the country.
Any previous bail conditions therefore no longer apply, and based on that decision accused Sarah Rene had been released on bail.
In her argument, accused Laura Valabhji, who is standing for her own defence,said the majority of charges should be withdrawn as the ACCS currently does not have the power to prosecute.
An argument backed by lawyer France Bonté who is representing Mukesh Valabhji, also asking that all charges should be dropped against his client.
In his ruling, Chief Justice Govinden noted that the court does not agree with the argument that the charges in relation to which ACCS currently has limited power to prosecute should be withdrawn just yet.
He explained that considering the seriousness of the offences, it is in interest of justice and the public to allow some time to wait for the enactment of the amendment Bills and to allow the ACCS to file amended charges.
The case has been adjourned until May 20.
Firearms, ammunition and terrorism cases
Other than request of extension of remand period for four out of the five accused in the case, the court also accepted a request made by the defence that retired lieutenant colonel and ex-presidential chief security officer Frank Marie is excused from appearing in court, until the trial begins in early December.
Mr Marie is already on bail and any arisen matters in the case will be directed to him through his lawyer.
He, along with former Chief of the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF) Leopold Payet has been accused of abuse of office.
Another accused in the case, namely Laura Valabhji requested permission from the court for her, and one of her staff – Myra Melanie – to be granted permission to access her dwelling house to retrieve uniforms for staff of the Capital City and Capital Trading.
It was agreed for Mrs Valabhji to be escorted by the police to retrieve the uniforms.