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Trial begins in human, drug-trafficking and importation cases |04 August 2022

 • 14 accused plead not guilty to new sets of charges  


Brothers Fabio and Dario Soopramanien, Gerard Bastienne and eleven Iranian nationals pleaded not guilty to five new sets of human and drug trafficking, as well as importation charges yesterday afternoon before Chief Justice Rony Govinden.

The new sets of charges filed against them on August 1, 2022, were presented earlier in the day to substitute the 15 previous ones they pleaded not guilty to last April.

All five counts are levelled against 36-year-old Fabio Soopramanien and his 31- year-old brother Dario, both of Pointe Larue, along with 52-year-old Gerard Bastienne of La Digue. However one charge, namely conspiracy to commit trafficking of a person, have been filed against the Iranian nationals.

In count one, the three Seychellois nationals are accused of committing an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 2016, namely the offence of importing a controlled drug.

For counts two and three, still under the Misused of Drugs Act 2016, the three are accused of allegedly importing 130.58 kilogrammes of a controlled drug, namely cannabis resin, and for agreeing to commit such an offence. This, on board a speed boat, namely Flying Fish.

Count four refers to trafficking of a person. The three men are accused of recruiting, transporting and transferring a Seychellois national, Andy Bistoquet, from Seychelles to an Iranian dhow at sea, to be taken to Iran as a drug guarantee, without informing him of the reason for his travel. The count also stipulates that they allegedly threatened and drugged him as a mean to control him.

Bistoquet was reported missing since November 7, 2021 and was later found onboard an Iranian dhow outside our exclusive economic zone.

The fifth count, which is conspiracy to commit trafficking of a person, is levelled at all fourteen men, including the eleven Iranian nationals, aged between 19 and 50 years old.

Yesterday was the first day of trial, which is expected to last for two weeks. The prosecution led by George Thatchett and Nissa Thompson called in their first witness, from the forensics unit within the Seychelles Police force, to present evidence collected on board two leisure boats linked to the case, namely Flying Fish and Etoile. The witness presented a total of 125 photographs as evidence.

As it was late in the day, the court had to adjourn and the testimony will resume on Friday morning.

The two brothers and Bastienne were arrested in November 2021, along with two other persons who have been dismissed in the case, after two boats were intercepted through a joint operation involving law enforcement and military agencies, allegedly in the act of committing drug-trafficking activities.

Fabio Soopramanien and Gerard Bastienne are being represented by defence lawyers Alexia Amesbury and France Bonte respectively. Attorney Clifford Andre is representing Dario Soopramanien and the eleven Iranian nationals.

The trial will resume on Friday at 9.30am.


Patsy Canaya

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