In the National Assembly: Members vote to give more powers to ACCS |19 May 2022
The Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles will soon have more powers to investigate and prosecute offences of conspiracy and attempt as well as offences of money laundering committed prior to the enactment of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act, 2020.
This will be possible now that National Assembly members have debated and approved a series of amendments through the Anti-Corruption Amendment Bill 2022.
The Bill also proposed to extend to the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS) asset recovery powers following conviction for offences committed prior to the enactment of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act, 2020.
Members voted 20 for eight against with no abstention to approve the general merit of the proposed amendments in the Bill.
Vice President Ahmed Afif presented the proposed amendments for Assembly members’ consideration and approval.
The new amendments being proposed are as follows:
- any person who conspire or attempt to commit an offence under this law can also be prosecuted by the ACCS;
- give the ACCS powers to carry out prosecutions of offences under the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2020 as well as the two previous related laws of 1996 and 2006;
- ensure that in the event of any investigation there are other offenses committed under other provisions of the law and the ACCS does not have any specific power to prosecute, the commission can make a court application to request that these offenses are included in any charge that are being prosecuted against the accused;
- allow for any investigation or prosecution already started by the commission relating to money laundering under the related acts, to continue and the commission will have the same power as the attorney general to undertake such a prosecution;
- ensure that the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2020 is applicable to any offence committed under the law where money laundering is the result or has been committed as a result of a criminal act that happened even before the Act of 2020 came into force.
VP Afif concluded his presentation by pointing out that “plotting to commit an offence or any attempt to commit an offence becomes an offence under the anti-corruption law.”
He went on to stress that the new powers of prosecution being proposed already exist under the powers of the attorney general but the amendments are simply stating that the power of prosecution can also be exercised by the ACCS.
“The amendments are not proposing new offences for acts committed in the past but simply stating the criminal acts of the past that could have been considered since then as an offence, can now also be prosecuted by the ACCS,” VP Afif stressed.
The VP went on to add that the amendments are important and necessary to bring clarity in the legal system where legislators, judiciary, lawyers, prosecutors, other concerned authorities, accused are all clear on this legal framework.
“We are doing this because we believe our people deserve a system which is effective and performing to better fight corruption and other dishonest actions and where the authority mandated to fight the scourge has the right framework and clear mandate and where all its actions are carried out without any ambiguity and which highlights our principle to respect the rule of law and at the same time ensure the legal right of all our citizens,” VP Afif stressed.
He noted before detailing the amendments that they have two main objectives: to bring more clarity in the powers of the ACCS and to allow the ACCS to have powers to retrieve ill-gotten property obtained through acts committed under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act 2020.
Going back to retrace the history of the ACCS, VP Afif noted that the commission has existed only for the past six years after it was set up through its own Act on March 31, 2016.
He pointed out that the Act was fraught with deficiencies and the separation of powers between its board and its chief executive was not really clear and this caused internal friction which caused delays in the delivery of its work.
He highlighted the fact that the commission’s employees were not being necessarily protected under the law for work done in good faith, offences that the commission could investigate were limited, the police had no power to carry out investigations in its cases, the ACCS could not undertake prosecutions on its own, it did not have the power to prevent a person under investigation from leaving the country… but all these deficiencies mentioned were addressed in 2019 through the Act 8 Amendment and came into effect on August 5, 2019. The amendment clarified the role of the chief executive and the commission, protect its employees from prosecution, broaden the powers of the commission to carry out investigation, allow the police to assist in its investigation, give it the power to start prosecution with the approval of the attorney general as well as the power to prevent a person under investigation from leaving the country.
VP Afif noted that in 2019 the following sections were amended; 10, 15, 21, 51, 52, 55, 63, 64 and 65 but deficiencies still remain.
“In its mandate there was no mention of conducting investigations in corruption and money laundering cases but this was addressed through the Act 4 Amendment 2020 which came into effect on April 5, 2020. To allow the ACCS to conduct investigations in cases related to conspiracy to commit offences, thefts and fraud related to the Penal Code, power for registration authorities to prevent registration of transactions of goods or rights under investigation in consultation with ACCS, give more clarity on the powers of the ACCS to carry out prosecutions with the permission of the attorney general and in what way this is carried out,” VP Afif explained.
He went on to note that these deficiencies were addressed through Act 58 Amendment 2021 which came into effect on December 15, 2021.
The proposed amendments raised a lot of arguments for and against. While they all raised their voices and stressed that they are against any form of corruption and would like the ACCS to succeed in its mandate, members of the minority United Seychelles party deplore the fact that it was the judiciary and the ACCS lawyer who announced that the law was going to be amended. They see that as interference in the work of the legislature. They also expressed their concern that too much power is being invested in the ACCS.
They also questioned the constitutionality of the amendments and deplore the way they have been brought before the House.
As for members of the majority Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) party, the amendments come at an opportune time and will ensure the ACCS continues to deliver on its mandate and more particularly in the ongoing corruption case and hopefully ensure that the country finds the missing US $50 million.
They argued that the ACCS needs more power to be more effective and to act on its own.