Valabhji couple file for urgent hearing in Seychelles court to allow for house visit
The Supreme Court gave a directive that the Valabhji couple should be allowed to collect their personal items which were not seized or detained by the police. (Rassin Vannier, Seychelles News Agency)
The legal counsel of Laura Valabhji is filing an application with the Supreme Court on Friday for an urgent hearing to listen to its motion to maintain the visit to the couple's residence scheduled for Saturday, October 29.
Samantha Aglae told the press in an interview on Thursday that she was notified through an email that the visit has been cancelled due to concerns by the Commissioner of the Seychelles Prison Service, Raymond St. Ange, on security and the practicality of the visit.
The Supreme Court on October 10 gave a directive that the Valabhji couple, Mukesh and his wife Laura – both accused in an illegal firearms case - should be allowed to collect their personal items which were not seized or detained by the police, and that access to properties not under detention order should not be obstructed.
The presiding judge, Mohan Burhan, said that the matter is capable of being resolved without the court's involvement, thereby not necessitating an order.
Aglae told the press that the prosecutor, after consulting with a representative of the Commissioner of Police, said the visit would take place on Saturday October 29.
"So we agreed on the 29th at 9 in the morning. Yesterday (Wednesday) I went to Montagne Posee to visit Laura and after the visit the Commissioner of Prison, Mr. St. Ange called me and asked if it was going to be a whole day on Saturday and I said yes and he said ok. He did not raise any concerns on security or practicalities for the couple and us to visit the residence," said Aglae.
However, she got an email on Thursday from a member of the prosecution team, George Thachett, saying that he had received certain concerns from the prison about the security and practicalities of the accused being brought to their property for the intended purposes.
"We do agree with the concerns and hence the proposed visit of the accused on Saturday has to be called off," he said in the email.
St Ange said in a television news report with the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation that the directive from the court of which he requested was vague so he contacted the concerned authorities.
"I requested an explanation from the concerned authorities on how long it will take, what the couple is allowed or not allowed to do so we can coordinate with the police since we will be responsible to escort them to the residence," St Ange said.
He said that he expects all to be sorted out on Friday.
Since they were arrested on November 18 in 2021, the Valabhji couple has been remanded and Aglae said that they do not know the state of their home.
She also said that the lawyers defending the couple are having trouble getting paid for their services as their accounts have been seized by the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS).
"Since July legal fees, an invoice was submitted by foreign lawyers and ACCS did not agree to settle. We are now discussing with the ACCS because they do not agree to settle legal fees as per the procedures they had set up on how and from which account payment should be made. So legal fees are not being paid," explained Aglae.
In a press statement on Friday, the ACCS refuted in its entirety the allegation.
"When the request was made for a further substantial payment in June of this year, the ACCS requested clarification with regard to the fact that the invoice was directed at a Limited Company operating in the Seychelles, and that the fees for Mr and Mrs Valabhji had nothing to do with the operation of that business. Mr Valabhji is not entitled to use the funds of a Limited Company as his own private purse," ACCS said in its statement.
ACCS added that "no justification for the payment of their private legal fees was ever provided and no proper breakdown of the invoice was received. We were very clear that we were not stopping them from having legal representation and ACCS is happy to allow a variation of lawfully issued restriction notices on any of their personal accounts restricted under Section 60 of the Anti-Corruption Act 2016 - to allow them to pay their legal costs at their own expense."
The illegal possession of firearms case involving Mukesh and Laura Valabhji will be heard in the Supreme Court of Seychelles as of December 1.
Five persons have been charged by the Supreme Court -- Mukesh Valabhji, a prominent business and his wife Laura, Leslie Benoiton – a senior officer in the Seychelles Defence Forces (SDF), Leopold Payet - a former chief of the Seychelles People's Defence Forces [the former name of the SDF]- and Frank Marie - retired lieutenant colonel and presidential chief security officer.
All of the accused have been released on bail except for the Valabhji couple. Mukesh Valabji has also been charged in a separate $50 million money laundering case together with Sarah Zarqhani Rene, the wife of former president France Albert Rene.