Seychelles' Supreme Court orders ACCS to unfreeze Laura Valabhji's clients' accounts
(Judiciary of Seychelles)
Seychelles' Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS) to unfreeze Laura Valabhji's clients' accounts.
Laura Valabhji, the wife of prominent businessman Mukesh, both on remand since November 2021, made the appeal to the court after all charges against her were dropped in the alleged corruption case in May 2022.
The case, which concerns $50 million of funds granted to the government of Seychelles by the United Arab Emirates in 2002, was brought forth by the ACCS in December 2021 and is the largest corruption case ever brought before the courts.
Valabhji remains in detention in relation to a second illegal firearms case in which she and her husband have been charged. This came after a cache of military arms and ammunition was found at their residence in the western Mahe district of Port Glaud during a search after they had been arrested in the money laundering case.
In his ruling on Friday, Justice Melchior Vidot, said he found that the ACCS acted beyond its powers in placing restrictions on the client's account of the applicant.
"Section 60 of the ACA does not extend that jurisdiction to cover properties belonging to a person, not under investigation. The ACCS has failed miserably in showing that any of the clients of the Applicant despite expressing concerns of some clients, particularly those having a connection with the Applicant's husband is under investigation," said Vidot.
He added that in his opinion "by definition section 60 does not extend to clients' accounts. By implication, the section extends the jurisdiction of the ACCS to restrict property belonging to the person under investigation only. [...] The ACCS has not in their affidavit or otherwise established that any of the clients of the Applicant was under investigation. As of now, Valabhji will have access to her accounts reversing the notices the ACCS had given."
Vidot said that the ACCS claims that the applicant is under investigation "yet in more than a year they have not been able to undertake such an exercise, to verify to whom the money in the clients' account belongs to. This shows a lack of seriousness on the part of the ACCS."
The presiding judge also stated that Valabjhi shall ensure that she pays out or reimburses clients whose money is being held in the client's accounts within the next six months.
"Since the Applicant is incarcerated, the Prison Authorities shall provide her with all assistance and facilities necessary to ensure that she completes the order," he added.
The Commissioner of the ACCS told SNA that "we respect the judgement of the court but do not agree with this ruling and that is why we will be appealing this decision of the judge."
UPDATED: 20.11 p.m.