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Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) Commission wraps up two weeks of hearings for January | 18 January 2020

Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC)     Commission wraps up two weeks of hearings for January

Mukesh Valabhji (Photo: Jude Morel)

After several closed sessions during the entire morning, the Truth, Reconciliation and National Unity Commission (TRNUC) reconvened yesterday afternoon in public sessions, wrapping up two weeks of hearings for January.

It was also noticed that Commissioner James Wong was not present at the hearings and the chairman of the commission, Gabrielle McIntyre, said that he is attending to other commitments and that he will be present for the February sessions. She also noted that there will be a session on January 22, 2020 followed by a visit at the location where Brian Victor was attacked. She also reminded complainants that they have until February 9, 2020 to file in their complaints to the commission.

 

Case 094: Ramesh Naidoo

Mukesh Valabhji was the first before the commission as a witness in relation to Case 094 of Ramesh Naidoo who, in his testimony last year (2019), had claimed that his victimisation, including wrongful conviction, was a result of him as a customs officer, reporting to his supervisor the importation of a car (Mazarati) through the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB) by Mr Valabhji declared under value of seven thousand pounds when the real value was twenty thousand pounds thus to avoid paying appropriate taxes.

Mr Naidoo had also claimed that his supervisor told him to report the case to State House where he was interviewed by Dobin Samson who made clear to him that it was not his (Samson) job to raise issues in respect of the importation of Mr Valabhji’s car. He had alleged that thereafter he was victimised and followed by state security agents. He claimed he resigned from the customs division and was later charged with an offence and imprisoned for four years related to stealing of tax documents from the trades tax department pertaining to Khrishna Mart Pillay in which he had stated he never was involved.

He had said that his conviction was orchestrated by State House and was seeking a compensation order against Mr Valabhji as the person responsible for his troubles.

Responding to the allegations, Mr Valabhji first and foremost told the commission that he had never known, seen or heard of Ramesh Naidoo’s name before until he (Naidoo) appeared before the commission to mention his name (Valabhji) last year (2019). He also said that he knew or was aware that Mr Naidoo at that time had reported him (Valabhji) to his superior or went to State House because of him or even less he was working on his importation file.

Mr Valabhji noted that two cars were imported at that time and not only one. He said from his knowledge there was a tax issue being handled by an Australian tax agent but not by Mr Naidoo as he had claimed. He noted that all communication regarding the tax issue was being handled through the Australian tax officer and Mr Naidoo was never involved in any discussions or correspondents. He stated that it was Glenny Savy, the owner of the second car, who discussed the tax issue with the Australian officer and not him.

“So for me to have a motive to have victimised Mr Naidoo does not exist because I did not know he was involved in the case and even that he existed. To victimise someone, you have to know that he exists. How can you victimise somebody when you do not know that he exists and like I’ve said, I had never known Mr Naidoo,” Mr Valabhji said.

Mr Valabhji noted that through his research on the court case of Mr Naidoo, he found that two courts had found Mr Naidoo guilty and from a police statement, Mr Naidoo had admitted to committing the offence he was imprisoned for. He claimed from police evidence that Mr Naidoo was seen in a car by a police officer, with the other two persons involved in the stealing of the documents and that it was to note that Mr Naidoo had lied to the commission about his knowledge of the two persons including that of Khrishna Mart Pillay. He said that Mr Naidoo was convicted in the multiparty democracy and not in the one party state and therefore why didn’t he see it fit to bring forward his victimisation case to the police or to the court as he was living in the multiparty era.

Mr Valabhji explained that if like Mr Naidoo had claimed that he (Valabhji) had framed him, the commission should check with all the other people who arrested and convicted him if he (Valabhji) ever collaborated with them to frame Naidoo. He said that Mr Naidoo has not provided any proof to the commission that he (Valabhji) was involved in victimising him. He said to better understand the story surrounding Mr Naidoo’s claim of victimisation, the commission should seek Mr Naidoo’s personal file so as to better understand why he was kicked out or resigned from customs, or if he really worked on his file (Valabhji).

He noted that if Mr Naidoo had a case regarding tax evasion, why did he only pinpoint on him as the owner of one car when in fact there were two cars.

“I feel that I am being victimised and if he is asking for compensation why just me,” he said, noting that the cars were right handed vehicles sitting in Italy and not compatible with the right-hand traffic system there, were valued at twelve thousand pounds and not twenty thousand pounds, as claimed by Mr Naidoo and they were purchased at a discount price of eight thousand pounds.

Mr Valabhji stated that the cars had mechanical problems and had to be shipped to the closest right-hand drive service agent in Malaysia whereupon they were refunded in full with the declared importation value.

In her response, Mrs McIntyre said that the commission will call in Mr Savy, the owner of the other car at that time, for his evidence. She also explained to Mr Valabhji that Mr Naidoo’s victimisation claim was not directed at him (Valabhji) but it was victimisation because of his (Valabhji’s) relationship with people in the authority. The commission did clarify to Mr Valabhji that Mr Naidoo did mention that there was another person involved in the importation of the cars.

 

Case 014: Holden Pierre, Case 049: Helen Gresle, Case 094: Ramesh Naidoo

Lawyer Bernard George was the next witness in relation to three cases – Case: 014: Holden Pierre regarding a claim made by Nicolas McQueen that his family had an interest in the property being claimed by Mr Pierre; Case 049: Helen Gresle who he negotiated her husband’s release from prison and Case 094: Ramesh Naidoo involving a case of wrongful conviction.

Starting with case 094 of Mr Naidoo, Mr George said that he did represent him in the criminal case where he (Naidoo) had been accused along with two other people for intended arson at the tax office to destroy evidence. He further said that he represented two of the three accused.

Mr George noted that back then, he was instructed by Mr Naidoo on the reasons why he thought he had been implicated in the venture but on the basis of the evidence in the case itself, which did not have anything to do with his background information given, all three persons were convicted. He noted that he had run the defence that he (Naidoo) was not present. He claimed he did not run a political frame-up defence like he did in many other cases, though Mr Naidoo had told him he was set up. He noted though that he had met with Mr Naidoo on several other matters after and he (Naidoo) is until today still maintaining his position that he was set up and wrongly convicted in 1992.

Mr George said that as the incident happened at night, he ran a mis-identity defence thinking that he would win the case but it was otherwise because of a police officer who had testified that he (Naidoo) was there.

He was further made to address an allegation made by Nicolas McQueen regarding a land issue in Case 014: Holden Pierre, where he had claimed that Jeanne McQueen, as executrix of the Deltel Properties, originally sold the property in question to government, and part of that property sold to the government at Anse Royale that Mr Pierre had claimed belongs to him, in fact belongs to the McQueen family. Mr Pierre had also claimed that he had been negotiating for its return since 1992.

Mr George noted that Mrs McQueen did not sell the land to government but it was compulsorily acquired and the claim with compensation, sits with the land tribunal as the two families, McQueen and Pierre, seek to control the Alexandre Deltel estate. He claimed that he acted for many years and still acting for the estate of Alexandre Deltel and noted that for the time being according to a court ruling, the Pierre family has no interest in the estate.

Mr Pierre had alleged that his late father, Mr Deltel, who fathered him out of marriage, had wanted him to stay in the house on the property in question and he had also invested in maintaining it. Mr George, who is acting on the side of the McQueens, said that government should return the property to the family as the heirs and only then can they negotiate with the Pierre family (Holden) for what they wanted as they are not considered as the heirs even though biologically related to Mr Deltel.

In the case of Hester Gresle in Case 049 in relation with his negotiation for the release from prison of Conrad Gresle, the husband, who was charged by the state with treason in 1992 and was also prevented from leaving the country for overseas treatment due to a tax evasion indictment against him, Mr Georges who last time could not found the file on his case, said, on finding it, recalled that F. Gresle had met with a foreign gentleman with some compromising documents which for some reasons were linked to him.

Mr George said that following his meeting with the gentleman, he (Gresle) was arrested and detained for four days on February 1, 1992, in connection with an alleged attempt to overthrow the government. He claimed that he acted for him and managed to secure his release on the condition that he makes a televised declaration which he did.

Mr George also alleged that Mr Gresle after his release had written to him to sue the government as he had claimed that it was a set up. He said that he did write to government on behalf of Mr Gresle, putting them on notice that the arrest and detention were illegal and to make matters worse his client was only to be released after he had agreed to be interviewed on government television station among others. He said that Mr Gresle had claimed R200,000 moral damages which was reduced to R100,000 which was subsequently denied. He said that Mr Gresle died shortly after without finding justice in his case.

 

Case 024: Amoosavaly Carolus

The chief secretary from the department of administration, Jessy Esparon, was the last person before the commission yesterday afternoon as a witness in case 024: Amoosavaly Carolus who had claimed that she was denied a pension after working for more than fifty years with the Ministry of Education.

Ms Esparon explained that people who had worked during the colonial period and before 1978 were paid a pension under Pension Cap 20 and further to changes in the law, the pension are being paid under Pension Cap 159. She noted that the law made provision for people working in those days to get a pension if they attained more than ten years of service. Less than 10 years, they were entitled to only a gratuity.

She stated that the pension was abolished on December 31, 1978 to be replaced by the social security benefit on January 1, 1979. She noted that those who had worked until December 31, 1978 their pensions were frozen but they were paid their pension at the age of 55 years while they were also able to continue in their employment until they reached retirement age of 63 years old.

Ms Esparon said that from her recorded files, Mrs Carolus on December 31, 1978, was only 24 years and 11 months in service and upon retiring in 1990 received her pension and her gratuity. She noted that from December 31, 1979 to December 31, 2004 there was no pension scheme in place later on as from 2005. She said that Mrs Carolus was lucky to have been paid a government pension plus her social security upon reaching ten years of service as others who didn’t were paid a pension. She claimed that Mrs Carolus is still receiving a pension plus her social security benefit. Mrs Carolus started work in 1954.

On Mrs Carolus’ other claim that her salary was reduced after she was transferred from a supervisor at the school meal centre to a supply teacher where she had been told that her salary would remain the same, Ms Esparon called on the commission to seek documents with the Ministry of Education on the matter.

 

Patrick Joubert

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