Missing $50 million: Seychelles Supreme Court orders Anti-Corruption Commission to share hard copies of document with the accused
The Palais de Justice which houses the Supreme Court. (Judiciary)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Seychelles Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACCS) to provide the disclosure documents in hard copies to the six persons facing corruption charges in the missing $50 million case.
The order was made by the presiding judge in the case, Chief Justice Rony Govinden after ACCS expressed difficulty in procuring and providing laptops.
Two weeks ago, some 6,000 documents, including audio files, were provided to the accused in electronic form on pen drives and Mukesh Valabhji's lawyer, France Bonte, said that since the materials are in electronic form, the accused needed to have access to a laptop via his lawyer.
Laura Valabhji, who is representing herself, asked for access to a computer and printing facilities while on remand to review materials and prepare her defence.
The new arrangements have also raised other concerns from Laura Valabhji who informed the court that before she visits her husband Mukesh Valabhji – her documents are searched and are left in complete disorder. She also informed the courts that she had no storage facilities for the document.
Mukesh is being held at a different facility from his wife who is at the detention centre at Montagne Posée on the main island of Mahe.
Govinden ordered that storage facilities be made available at her detention facility.
“Reasonable transport facilities need to be made available if she needs to transport them, I say reasonable because the court does not expect that all documents will be needed to be transported,” said Govinden.
A tentative plea date has been set for March 4th.
The six accused in the case are Mukesh Valabhji, a prominent businessman and former chairman of the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB); his wife Laura – a lawyer; Sarah Zarqhani Rene – wife of late President France Albert Rene; Leslie Benoiton – a senior officer in the Seychelles Defence Forces; Lekha Nair – former CEO of the Seychelles Pension Fund, who was director general in the Ministry of Finance at the time the funds went missing; and Maurice Loustau-Lalanne – former finance minister and formerly a COSPROH board member.
The case concerns $50 million which went missing after the funds were granted to the government of Seychelles by the United Arab Emirates in 2002. The funds were then transferred to a bank account of the SMB, now known as the Seychelles Trading Company (STC), at a branch of the Bank of Baroda in England.
Meanwhile, the courts have also agreed to hear the illegal firearms possession case on the same date as the corruption case, after the police expressed constraint with manpower and transportation to take the accused to the courts so often.