Seychelles tourism minister denies corruption allegation, describes hotel cheque as ‘official payment’
The Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture, Alain St Ange. (State House)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Seychelles' minister for tourism and culture has denied that he was involved in an act of corruption when a hotel issued a cheque in his name last month.
Alain St Ange was answering a ‘Private Notice Question’ before the National Assembly on Tuesday. The question tabled by the leader of the opposition in the assembly, Francesca Monnaie, was seeking clarification after it was published in a local newspaper that a cheque for a large sum of money had been issued in the minister’s name recently.
The ‘Seychelles Weekly,’ which is affiliated with an opposition party, the Seselwa United Party, published an article titled ‘Is Alain St Ange corrupt?’ in late May.
The article was accompanied by a photo of a cheque of $7,500 [worth 100,000 Seychelles rupees] which the Ste Anne Resort Limited had issued in St Ange’s name.
In his statement before the Seychelles parliament, St Ange said the accusations made against him were ‘baseless.’
“Payment through a company cheque is an official payment, corruption is not done through cheque,” said St Ange.
According to Minister St Ange he was collecting the payment on behalf of eTurboNews, of which he is a representative in Seychelles.
ETurboNews is an international online newswire that distributes news and information relating to the global travel trade, including information about Seychelles.
The tourism minister went on to explain that the cheque related to eTurboNews coverage of the Beachcomber Adventure 2016, a commercial event which the Beachcomber group of hotels organises in the Indian Ocean region. Apart from the Beachcomber Ste Anne Resort and Spa in Seychelles, Beachcomber also owns hotels in Mauritius and Morocco.
Responding to questions from SNA on whether he had been issued with such cheques before -- either from St Anne Resort or other tourism establishments -- St Ange said he has served as the eTurboNews Tourism Ambassador in Seychelles since the mid-2000s.
“It goes without saying that I have received payments on their behalf before. This is one of the reasons why they have appointed agents in the four corners of the world. In return for being their agent I get access to their extensive network and have used that extensively to increase the visibility of Seychelles.”
In the ‘Seychelles Weekly’ article of May 27 it was also reported that the cheque was issued on May 10, a day after Minister St Ange had appointed the former general manager of the hotel, Norbert Couvreur, as a cultural ambassador for Seychelles.
In his response in the assembly on Tuesday, St Ange said that the appointment was aimed at creating opportunities for young Seychellois sportsmen and women.
“Mr. Couvreur is going to head a hotel in France which is highly affiliated with a sports training facility for top professionals in the world of sports,” St Ange said.
St Ange noted that cultural ambassadors -- a title given to a foreigner “who can open doors of opportunities for our people” -- do such work on a voluntary basis. He said that some 80 Seychellois living abroad have also been appointed tourism ambassadors with the aim of making the island nation more visible as a tourism destination.
St Ange has indicated that he is taking legal action vis-à-vis the claims that have been made against him.
“Recourse for acts of malice with the aim of discrediting someone is before the courts. I have also taken screen shots on social media of defamatory posts and will be also referring these to the lawyer,” he said to SNA.
Corruption claims made in the near future will be directed to an Anti-Corruption Commission that the National Assembly voted in favour of earlier this year. The commission will be tasked with receiving complaints and also investigating, detecting and preventing practices linked to corruption in both the public and private sector.