Corruption case: Valabhjis' lawyer claims she is “under surveillance” in Seychelles and when travelling
Legal counsel Samantha Aglae (Seychelles Nation- file photo)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The main legal counsel on the Valabhji case, Samantha Aglae, alerted Seychelles’ media on Sunday evening of a breach in her constitutional rights to privacy as a result of taking on an infamous case, where businessman Mukesh Valabjhi is facing charges of alleged theft, official corruption and money laundering amounting to approximately $100 million between 1993 and 2012. He and his wife, Laura, also face a second case of illegal possession of firearms.
In an email addressed to all local media houses, Aglae claims that she has been placed on a “target list” as soon as she had officially taken on the couple’s case in June 2022.
“I was alerted that I was on the target list and even warned not to return to Seychelles as I was on the radar of the group of informal “private eye”,” – a group of individuals she has nicknamed ‘Kapon’ or cowards in Creole, she elaborated in the email.
According to her recollections, someone informed her that she was being watched and soon after “I started to receive notifications of unusual signing into my email account and I knew that Kapon was already on my tail and hard at work to infiltrate my communications,” she said.
Aglae also said that she “started noticing out of place vehicles parked across from my home with its occupants just sitting there for hours on end and then new faces started to show up from across the road, just staring and watching my home”.
She went on to add that as time passed “they became bolder and started coming into the compound to search the rubbish bin each time using different ways to access it”.
“I am bringing this matter to the forefront as such activities not only tarnishes the image of Seychelles and waste public funds but it violates the rights of the Valabhjis, my rights, those of my family and puts our lives at risk.”
According to the account she has given the press, it has even gone as far as the individuals following her to Seychelles on flights and also watching her home on the island in the western Indian ocean.
“What I cannot get used to is how much it’s costing taxpayers to have the Valabhjis’ defence team under surveillance in and outside of Seychelles as some of them travel in business class, when the average Seychellois are struggling to make ends meet. Many more can be said, but my recorded statements, photos and videos I have of my escorts are with my lawyer.”
Aglae concluded by saying that despite the breach to her rights, she will “continue to represent the Valabhjis because I cannot just stand by and allow injustice such as what is happening to my clients to happen because it could happen to anyone of us who makes it to the target list.”
Aglae is the third lawyer to join the Valabhjis legal case since it began 15 months ago.
Frank Elizabeth was the first to recuse himself although he was initially to register the Kobre & Kim lawyers from a law firm based in the UK, under his cabinet. Basil Hoareau, another local attorney, has done a short stint on the couple’s legal team.
“Their first lawyer withdrew from their case within days and their second lawyer withdrew a couple of months later after British investigator, Patrick Humphreys, working for ACCS made certain allegations against him and on that same date,” claims Aglae.
ACCS refutes allegations
Meanwhile, the SNA contacted the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS), which has been accused of being behind the illegal searches and surveillance.
ACCS chief executive May de Silva told SNA that the organisation refutes all the allegations Aglae has made in her statement, adding “that since these allegations are serious, Aglae should contact the police”.
Rights to privacy
The Constitution of Seychelles provides a very broad definition to the right to privacy. The right to privacy provides that “every person” which includes a lawyer representing clients, “has the “right” not to be searched or (have) his or her property searched without the consent of that person, nor to enter on the premises of that person without consent - unless there is a warrant issued by the court”.
The constitution also stipulates that a search cannot be carried out “without a court order to have his or her correspondence or other means of communication intercepted”.
The constitution – which is also the supreme law of the land – allows that “should a search or correspondence/ communication be intercepted upon a court order or warrant, this should be under the exceptions of the right to privacy, and necessary in a democratic society”.