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Illegal arms case: Seychelles' former President James Michel testifies arms were legally imported

Victoria, Seychelles | March 15, 2024, Friday @ 16:13 in National » GENERAL | By: Rita Joubert-Lawen Edited by: Betymie Bonnelame | Views: 3770
Illegal arms case: Seychelles' former President James Michel testifies arms were legally imported

Palais de Justice which houses the Supreme Court. (Judiciary of Seychelles) 

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Seychelles' former President James Michel testified before the Supreme Court on Friday via video link in the illegal possession of firearms case involving prominent businessman Mukesh Valabjhi and his wife, lawyer Laura Valabjhi - an hour later than planned due to internet connectivity reasons.

He said in his testimony held in front of presiding judge Chief Justice Rony Govinden that most of the arms importation documents presented to him at the time were above board.

The former president, who resides in the United Arab Emirates, received a summon via email to testify and could not appear in person before the court for medical reasons.

In his testimony, he affirmed that during his time in office from April 2004 - April 2016, arms and ammunition were imported into the country for use by the police and the then Seychelles People's Defence Forces.

He said there were procedures to follow to do so, and as Commander in Chief at the time, he was the one who granted approval. It was only then, that an End User certificate was issued for the arms and ammunition due to be imported.

When Stephen Powles, counsel for the prosecution asked him who made the payment for the arms, he said he did not recall "whether it was the President's Office, Finance or SPDF. I would simply authorise as the goods were already received."

He added that he had not given the Valahbji's any authorisation to possess any firearms and ammunition nor to keep them at their homes and that he was only aware that the couple had them through the media after the initial investigations into the case began.

The case relates to the seizure of more than 100 firearms and over 35,000 rounds of ammunition from the Valabhji home at Morne Blanc on November 18, 2021.

Five persons have been charged by the Supreme Court. The accused are Mukesh Valabhji 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 the accused have been released on bail except for the Valabhji couple and Benoiton.

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.

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Tags: Supreme Court, Seychelles Defence Forces

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