Foreign lawyers keen to work in Seychelles
Fredrick Egonda-Ntende (Sharon Uranie, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Many foreign lawyers have shown interest to work in the Seychelles’ offshore business sector after previous restrictions were lifted, the Indian Ocean island nation’s Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Fredrick Egonda-Ntende has said.
The country’s lawyers’ association has nevertheless said many local barristers are not particularly happy with the prospect, which came after the Seychelles National Assembly passed a law last year allowing attorneys from other countries to practice within the archipelago.
For the foreign lawyers to work in the Seychelles, the island nation’s authorities need to name the countries such lawyers may come from, which has not been done yet, so none of those interested have started work, said Egonda-Ntende in an interview with the Seychelles News Agency (SNA).
The chief judge has been calling for more lawyers, partly blaming their shortage for the accumulation of unheard cases, some of which had been before the courts for 20 years before a reform he launched four years ago speeded up court processes.
He told the SNA that the requirement for Seychellois lawyers to first do a two-year pupillage under another lawyer before practising in Seychelles should be removed to attract back local attorneys based abroad.
‘It is not reasonable to expect a Seychellois running a successful law firm overseas to leave his or her business and come to serve here under pupillage,’ he said.
Before opening a commercial court he presides over, Egonda-Ntende had said delays in dealing with business related cases was hampering the economy as firms waited for many years without operating as they awaited conclusion of their cases, a factor which economists said discouraged investors.
Chairman of the Seychelles bar association Anthony Derjacques however told the SNA that many local lawyers were disappointed that they were not consulted and that there is not enough business for both locals and foreigners.
‘The chief justice and the association have worked on the case backlog and there are hardly any old cases to deal with now,’ said Derjacques, who explained the small nation’s 47 private practitioners will soon be joined by others due to qualify in a few years from the University of Seychelles thus meeting manpower needs.
‘Business in the offshore they are supposed to work in has dwindled by 20 percent since parliament has changed the laws to remove the confidentiality that attracted investors there in the first place,’ he said.
‘Besides, the laws under which the foreign lawyers are expected to work under allow them to be involved in other sectors, not just the offshore. They can be involved in cases to do with taxation, commerce and property, so the Seychellois practitioner has monopoly only in criminal law,’ he told the SNA.
He disagreed that Seychellois returning to work on the islands would be disadvantaged ‘because they can always represent clients with cases in the various tribunals and before magistrates’ courts.
The University of Seychelles has started a law degree course as part the archipelago’s efforts to curb the shortage of lawyers in the country.
Egonda-Ntende is a Ugandan judge who became Chief Justice in the Seychelles in 2009. Previously he served as Acting Justice of the Supreme Court of Uganda.