‘Missing $50m case’: ACCS changes charges against 2 accused and drops charges against 3, pending agreement
The Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS) on Thursday filed amended charges for money laundering against businessman Mukesh Valabji and former First Lady Sarah Zarqhani Rene, and dropped charges against three others in the case of the $50 million that went missing from government accounts.
According to court documents, the counsel for ACCS, Edmund Vickers, informed the Supreme Court that amendments to national legislation had been completed that enables the case to go forward and the ACCS now has the power to prosecute and amend the charges in the case without the involvement of the Attorney General.
The amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (AMLFT) Act 2020 were approved by the National Assembly on Wednesday after all the members of the ruling party, Linyon Demokratik Sesewa (LDS), who has a two thirds majority voted in favour. All the members of the United Seychelles (US) voted against.
The amendments allow the ACCS to investigate and prosecute offences of money laundering committed prior to the enactment of the law, as the offences are alleged to have taken place from 2002 onwards.
The case, which concerns $50 million of funds granted to the government of Seychelles by the United Arab Emirates in 2002, was brought forth by the ACCS in December of last year and is the largest corruption case ever brought before the courts.
Out of the six accused in the case, the charges against Mukesh Valabhji, a prominent businessman and former chairman of the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB) and Sarah Zarqhani Rene – wife of late President France Albert Rene – have been amended. The court did not specify what had been amended.
Valabji’s lawyer, France Bonte, will give his response to the amended charges against his client on June 30.
Charges were withdrawn against Laura Valabhji, Mukesh’s wife, pending further investigations and awaiting legal professional privilege materials. She remains on remand in relation to a separate case concerning firearms and prevention of terrorism.
Meanwhile, the charges against Lekha Nair – former CEO of the Seychelles Pension Fund, who was director general in the Ministry of Finance at the time the funds went missing, and Maurice Loustau-Lalanne – former finance minister and formerly a COSPROH board member – were said to be withdrawn subject to them signing an agreement to assist the prosecution. The agreement has not been signed yet.