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Court to rule on motion to postpone firearms and terrorism case today   |30 November 2022

The Supreme Court will this afternoon be delivering its ruling in relation to a motion filed by the Valabhji couple, Laura and Mukesh, to postpone the firearms and prevention of terrorism trial scheduled for December 1.

This follows the couple’s appearance in court yesterday where it was claimed that despite a court order for the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS) to permit them to effect legal payments, their legal fees remain unpaid, amid other reasons.

During yesterday’s session, Counsel for Mrs Valabhji, Samantha Aglae, delivered oral submissions before the court addressing legal fees, ongoing disclosure, and the review of documents under the legal professional privilege (LPP).

Relying on the Criminal Procedure Code, Ms Aglae stated that court has a discretion to adjourn the hearing of the case towards ensuring that her client’s right to a fair and public trial is upheld.

In particular, Ms Aglae emphasised that the defence must be given adequate time and facilities to prepare, and have a right to be defended by a legal practitioner of their choice.

She stated that despite the earlier court order, funds for legal fees have not yet been released, and the defendants have received further written communication from ACCS on Monday, requesting yet more information.

She added that even if the funds are released shortly, considering the complexity and volume of evidence in the case, the foreign Counsel will not be able to proceed with the trial as scheduled.

Further, Ms Aglae stated that disclosure of evidence is still not finalised as certain digital devices with evidence could not be accessed, failed to contain information it was supposed to contain, and that the full report regarding LPP documents had not yet been received.

In response, Counsel for the Republic Steven Powles stated that the issue of release of funds is between Mr and Mrs Valabhji and the ACCS, who is not a party in the firearms case.

He further stated that Mr and Mrs Valabhji can use funds from personal accounts, and that the delay in relation to funds is of their own doing.

With regard to the disclosure of evidence, Mr Powles noted that he has written to Mr France Bonte, Counsel for Mr Valabhji offering assistance of a police officer to access files on the USB drive which was not opening, but no steps to resolve the issue has been taken.

He further stated that with regard to LPP documents, it was only recently that the expert was appointed to review the documents.

At the same time, Mr Powles also stated that nevertheless, should the court consider there are sufficient reasons for postponement, the Republic will agree.

He however pointed out that the rights of the third accused Leslie Benoiton, also needs to be respected, and therefore competing issues need to be balanced.

Ms Aglae in response clarified that with regard to personal account funds, Mr Powles is not privy to the invoice amounts submitted for payment for legal fees to the ACCS and therefore cannot assess and suggest that funds from personal accounts can cover the fees.

Furthermore, she stated that the court has already ruled that corporate accounts can be used to pay legal fees subject to conditions specified in the Order.

For his part, Counsel Basil Hoareau who is representing the third accused in the matter, Leslie Benoiton, objected the motion for postponement on the basis that his clients also have the right to be tried within a reasonable time, as per Article 18 of the Constitution. He pointed out that Mr Benoiton has been remanded since November 2021, clearly stating that his clients’ instructions are that they are ready to proceed with the trial.

Presiding judge in the matter, Chief Justice Ronny Govinden, stated that counsels for all the parties need to be more assisting and engaging, in light of the lack of communication, trust and proactivity between both sides.


Compiled by Laura Pillay


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