Six suspects in US $50 million case formally charged |18 December 2021
The six suspects arrested in connection with the missing US $50 million were all formally charged before the Supreme Court yesterday morning.
Mukesh Valabhji (suspect number 1), a prominent businessman who was arrested together with his wife, faces numerous charges in the matter under investigation and prosecution by the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS). The accused, in 2002, at the time which the Abu Dhabi government granted the funds for the government of Seychelles, served as the director general of the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB), and director general of the Ministry of Finance.
Among the charges laid against him yesterday were: conspiracy to commit official corruption, two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, several counts for stealing and official corruption charges. Mr Valabhji will also be tried for concealment of property.
The second accused in the case, Laura Valabhji (suspect number 2), is also being tried for money laundering, and concealment of property.
As for Leslie Benoiton (suspect number 3), an official of the Seychelles Defence Forces (SDF), he also faces charges of official corruption, money laundering charges, concealment of property, and stealing by person in public service, contrary to the Penal Code.
The accused is alleged to have corruptly obtained US $100,000 by way of payment from the first suspect without lawful authority.
The three are to remain in custody and are to reappear in court on December 30. It must be noted that the three are also facing additional charges in a separate case under investigation by the Seychelles police, in relation to an extensive cache of weapons and ammunition allegedly discovered at the Valabhji’s home.
Concerning the fourth accused Sarah Rene, wife of the late former President France Albert Rene who was in power at the time, Chief Justice Rony Govinden yesterday stated the necessity in imposing even more stringent bail conditions than when she last appeared in court on Friday last week.
This time Chief Justice Govinden ordered that in addition to the initial bail bond of US $2 million, the accused will have to provide two substantial sureties of Seychellois nationality, with US $1 million as guarantee each. In justification, he said that with the suspect being charged, the risk of interference with witnesses or the investigation is heightened, and the seriousness of the offence is as important in court’s consideration.
Mrs Rene is the last suspect to have been arrested in connection with the matter, and is also being faced with two charges, namely money laundering and concealment of property.
Fifth accused Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, served as a public servant and director of parastatal Cosproh at the time the money was allegedly misappropriated. He too is facing a number of charges and is accused of corruptly approving the devaluation of three hotels and to enable such properties to be purchased by the first accused at a price lower that the true and proper value of such properties. As such, he will be tried for official corruption, contrary to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act (2020), and two counts of stealing.
During yesterday’s proceedings, Mr Loustau-Lalanne was granted bail, on condition that he pays a bail bond of R250,000 and provides two sureties for R100,000 each, and that he appears at the Mont Fleuri police station daily. He is to also surrender all travel documents to court.
Lekha Nair (6), former director general of the Ministry of Finance at the time, faces official corruption charges, after allegedly allowing the US $50 million intended for the government of Seychelles, for the personal and private use of the first suspect. Additionally, she will be tried for aiding and abetting theft.
Mrs Nair’s bail conditions were upheld by court, meaning she must be present at the Beau Vallon police station on Mondays at 9am, among other requirements.
All six accused are to reappear before court on December 30.