Eighth suspect in missing US $50 million remanded in custody |25 January 2022
The woman who was arrested at the Seychelles International Airport and detained last Friday night while leaving the country following a red alert notice issued by the court earlier that day, has been remanded for 14 days in custody at the Mont Fleuri police station, pending further investigation in connection with the missing US $50 million.
The ruling was made by Chief Justice Rony Govinden yesterday morning following a request made by the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS).
The woman is the eighth suspect to be arrested in connection with the misappropriated US $50 million given to Seychelles by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2002 to purchase food and which was never used for the intended purpose.
The woman was listed on a power of attorney for Mukesh Valabhji's two accounts with the DBS Bank in Singapore while the latter is currently awaiting trial on charges of money laundering and corruption in the case of the missing US $50 million.
She is set to return to court on February 7, 2022 at 9am.
Daniel Cesar, lawyer of the 41-year-old suspect of British nationality, had no objection with ACCS’ application for her to be remanded but instead raised some human rights issues in relation to her medical condition, which he said must be accorded to her if she is to be remanded in custody.
The defence lawyer told the chief justice that his client had recently undergone a major surgery and among her recuperation requirements is a one hour exercise in the morning, and another in the afternoon, and as for nutrition, she has to be provided with a special diet of high protein food, which can be brought in by somebody, so as to help in her recovery.
ACCS lawyer, Tony Juliette, had no objection to the request made by lawyer Cesar on humanitarian ground and CJ Govinden ruled in favour of the request.
Other than being allowed to carry out the morning and afternoon exercises, the woman will also have members of her family or other persons she may request to bring her special food.
He also called on the police to make sure that she gets access to no contraband while being served with her special diet.
According to the ACCS’ affidavit, the woman, who is a senior officer at Felicité Island Development, one of Mr Valabhji’s companies, had apart from being listed on a power of attorney on her master’s two bank accounts in Singapore, from which she had not removed any money yet, also had power of attorney on a third bank account belonging to Mr Valabhji where as the recipient, a significant amount of money was removed from the account to pay for Mr Valabhji’s British lawyers. ACCS did not mention where the account, which is being investigated, was located and also how much money was removed from it.
ACCS also said that the woman, in December 2021, threatened a co-accused in the case (who is on bail) and asked him to leave the country, even before he was arrested in connection with the case.
The woman has been working in Seychelles on a gainful occupation permit (GOP) since 2018. She was arrested in an operation conducted jointly by the ACCS and the Seychelles police in collaboration with the Immigration authorities.
With regard to her being granted humanitarian assistance while in custody, ACCS said that it is always favourable for suspects or accused to be treated humanely and for their basic rights to be respected.
ACCS also stated that the matter of lawyer Frank Elizabeth giving the woman power of attorney for Mr Valabhji’s bank accounts is being investigated.
ACCS said that although the commission has frozen Mr Valabhji’s accounts, it is working with the local banks where a mechanism has been put in place to assist with the continued payments and other legal obligations, with regard to his local employees and business operations.
It is to be noted that Mr Valabhji (suspect number 1), his wife Laura Valabhji (suspect number 2), Leslie Benoiton (suspect number 3), Sarah Rene (suspect number 4), Maurice Loustau-Lalanne (suspect number 5 on bail) and Lekha Nair (suspect number 6 on bail) in the missing US $50 million, will appear in court on January 28, 2022. A seventh suspect in the case and also released on bail, will appear in court on February 4, 2022.
Also in court on January 28, 2022 will be the two further suspects ‒ 75-year-old retired Brigadier and former Chief of the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF) Leopold Payet, and 81-year-old retired lieutenant colonel and presidential chief security officer Frank Marie, who were arrested on Wednesday December 29, 2021 in connection with the arms, ammunition and alleged conspiracy to commit terrorism.