Seychelles seizes $456,000 in assets in first-time operation
Fleet of vehicles for hire seized against Seychellois man in the first ill-gotten asset seizure ordered by the Seychelles Supreme Court. (Joena Bonnelame, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles' officials have seized $456,000 worth of ill-gotten assets from drug trafficking, the first such seizure since the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) extended its mandate to include such an authority late last year.
The accused, 32-year old Hubert Alphonse from Pointe Larue, a district in the east of Mahe, Seychelles’ main island, was charged under the Proceeds of Criminal Act and the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
Alphonse pleaded guilty to acquiring the assets through illegal means. Last month the island nation’s Supreme Court ordered the seizure of his assets worth. Alphonse was also fined $3,854.
Seychelles’ Attorney General Ronny Govinden said the assets included a car-hiring business with 12 cars operating under the name Mahe Safari, a plot of land and $98,000 worth of foreign currencies.
“The accused was not arrested with any drugs, but we found enough money and other assets in his possession that he could not account for,” said Govinden.
Under the Anti-Money Laundering Act of Seychelles, a person found guilty is liable to a fine of around $380,000 or a prison term of fewer than 15 years or both.
“Because he (Alphonse) took a plea bargain and his assets outweighed the fine set under the law, he did not receive a prison sentence,” said Govinden.
The seizure of Alphonse’s assets is the result of a two-year investigation. According to the local authorities, he had amassed assets over a short period and had a lifestyle not in line with his earnings as a clerk.
The investigation, which involved the NDEA, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Office of the Attorney General, culminated with charges against the suspect in March.
Niall Scully, NDEA’s Chief Officer, said although Alphonse did not receive a prison sentence, he remains a person of interest.
“He is not immune to be re-examined if we suspect he is trafficking again. We will definitely look into it,” said Scully.
Seychelles’ Minister for Home Affairs, Charles Bastienne said, “Through this seizure we want to send a strong message. Drug traffickers should not benefit at the expense of youths they have poisoned.”
Alphonse is the first among eight top drug traffickers being investigated, to have his assets seized by local authorities in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
In his State of the Nation address in February, Seychelles President James Michel said authorities were doubling their effort to ensure that the eight main drug traffickers are arrested and brought to justice.
“Some of their assets have been seized temporarily while we proceed with the cases to ensure they have no way of disposing of these assets,” said Govinden.
Bastienne said any assets seized as part of criminal activities will be sold, and proceeds go towards rehabilitation programme for drug users.
Drug trafficking and drug use, particularly heroin, remain a major concern in the island nation.