Skip to content

Timeline

21st March 2024

Human Rights Watch issue a supportive statement calling for the Seychelles authorities to ensure that the prosecution of a former presidential adviser and other defendants in a high-profile anticorruption case is free, fair, and impartial.

20th March 2024

The trial adjourns indefinitely after eight months. The Attorney General, who stated in July 2023 that the whole trial would last for six weeks, state that it is unwilling to close its case.

Laura and Mukesh Valabhji remain in detention, as they have been since November 2021, having been convicted of no crime. They will not be permitted to start their own defence unless the Attorney General decides that its prosecution is closed.

August 2023 to March 2024

The Attorney General conducts its prosecution of Laura and Mukesh Valabhji and the three other defendants, calling nearly 100 witnesses in the process.

The defendants complain throughout of non-disclosure by the prosecution, lack of notice about witnesses, procedural irregularities among many similar issues. However, all interim procedural issues relating to admissibility of evidence, relevance and disclosure are decided by Chief Justice Govinden in favour of the prosecution.

24th August 2023

Laura Valabhji applies for bail for second time. Bail refused on 2 October 2023.

3rd August 2023

Chief Justice Govinden adjourns the trial for two weeks, during which time Laura and Mukesh Valabhji’s legal advisors are able to travel to Seychelles to take over the part-heard trial to the best of their ability.

3rd July 2023

Chief Justice Govinden again refuses to give Laura and Mukesh Valabhji time to instruct legal representation despite the recent variation of the restraint order by the court. The trial begins with Laura and Mukesh Valabhji forced to represent themselves against charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism.

23rd June 2023

Judge Carolus varies the restraint order obtained by the ACCS to permit Laura and Mukesh Valabhji to spend money on their legal defence.

9th June 2023

Chief Justice Govinden announces unilaterally that he intends to fix the trial of the firearms charges to begin on 3 July 2023. Attorney General states that the trial will last for six weeks. Chief Justice declares that all other matters before the court will be removed to give complete priority to this prosecution.

Chief Justice Govinden rejects out of hand Laura and Mukesh Valabhji’s argument that they require more time to instruct legal representation because the ACCS refused to vary its restraint order to allow them to use their money to pay for representation.

1st June 2023

Judge Burhan rejects application to recuse Chief Justice Govinden.

10th May 2023

Following a letter sent by the ACCS to Chief Justice Govinden, the trial of the corruption charges listed for 11 May 2023 is vacated.

28th April 2023

Judge Burhan refuses to permit Laura and Mukesh Valabhji to file evidence in response to the allegations made in Chief Justice Govinden’s affidavit, despite the Chief Justice having expressly challenged them to prove the matters in issue. Permission to appeal this decision is later refused on 18 May 2023.

13th April 2023

One day before the hearing the application to recuse him, Chief Justice Govinden formally refuses to recuse himself. He provides Laura and Mukesh Valabhji a copy of an affidavit which he had made on 27 March 2023, in which he denies the grounds on which Laura and Mukesh Valabhji seek his recusal – putting them to proof of their allegations. The application to recuse is transferred to Judge Burhan.

4th April 2023

ACCS issues a motion seeking to make wholesale changes to the charges against Mukesh Valabhji. At the same time ACCS refuses to apply to postpone the trial of the corruption charges which had been listed for 11 May 2023. Date set by the Court of Appeal to hear Mrs Valabhji’s appeal for bail.

31st March 2023

Following a secret “ex-parte” application by the ACCS, the Supreme Court grants a restraint order preventing Laura and Mukesh Valabhji from dealing with any of their assets in any way. There is no provision for them to pay ordinary living costs of themselves or their family, nor to pay their legal expenses of defending themselves against the charges. The ACCS does not notify Laura and Mukesh Valabhji that it has obtained the restraint order until 3rd April 2023, after it has arranged for banks to freeze all their assets.

28th March 2023

Laura and Mukesh Valabhji issue a formal motion seeking the recusal of Chief Justice Govinden on the grounds set out previously by James Lewis KC in his letter.

15th March 2023

Laura and Mukesh Valabhji’s leading counsel James Lewis KC writes to Chief Justice Govinden asking him to recuse himself from sitting as the sole Judge at the trial of both sets of charges, since he was a colleague of Laura Valabhji and a personal friend of both Laura and Mukesh Valabhji until a later dispute. Mr Lewis also refers to the fact that Laura Valabhji assisted Chief Justice Govinden’s now ex-wife during the course of the Chief Justice’s divorce. Chief Justice Govinden refused to recuse himself and referred the matter to another Judge of the Supreme Court.

8th March 2023

Attorney General’s lead counsel Steven Powles applies for an order directing that the ACCS money-laundering trial (then fixed for 11 April 2023) be replaced with the AG’s arms trial. At this time both ACCS and Attorney General know that Laura and Mukesh Valabhji have been unable to instruct a legal team to begin to prepare their defence for either trial, because they have been denied access to their funds.

24th February 2023

Laura and Mukesh Valabhji issue appeal against Supreme Court decision on 10 November 2022 preventing them from paying their legal fees.

16th February 2023

Laura and Mukesh Valabhji apply to revoke the previous decision by Chief Justice Govinden to revoke a power of attorney by which Mukesh Valabhji is able to use bank accounts located outside Seychelles, which was made without giving Laura or Mukesh Valabhji a chance to respond. Laura and Mukesh Valabhji explain that they do not have sufficient funds in Seychelles to pay their legal costs, but that unless the earlier decision is revoked they cannot access their funds overseas.

10th February 2023

Eleven months after the original decision, nine months after the appeal was issued, and six months after the arguments were heard, the Seychelles Court of Appel delivers its decision on Laura Valabhji’s appeal against against Chief Justice Govinden’s refusal to grant her bail. The Court of Appeal dismisses the appeal in full. There is no higher court to which Laura Valabhji can appeal, and so she remains locked up.

Seychelles Court of Appeal delivers its judgment on Laura Valabhji’s appeal against Chief Justice Govinden’s refusal to grant her bail.

Despite the decision on 10 November 2022, Chief Justice Govinden refuses to permit Mukesh Valabhji to pay legal fees from funds held by companies of which he is the sole owner. The Judge cites provisions of the Seychelles Companies Act which prevent improper loans to directors to prevent the company from following its own resolutions. The Judge says that he requires them to pay ‘from their own funds.’ He finally refuses to postpone the upcoming trial on money laundering regardless of the evidence that Laura and Mukesh Valabhji have been unable to secure legal representation.

13th December 2022

Laura Valabhji brings an action in the Constitutional Court of Seychelles seeking a declaration that the way in which her prosecution was managed had been unlawful, and that prosecuting her under retrospective legislation, passed urgently mid-way through the process, was unconstitutional.

30th November 2022

Trial in the Firearms case listed for 1 December 2022 is postponed because Laura and Mukesh Valabhji have not been able to instruct their preferred legal advisors in time for this date, and the prosecution have failed to give full disclosure.

22nd November 2022

Mukesh Valabhji files a petition to the Constitutional Court to review the constitutionality of a section of the Anti-Corruption Act, 2016.

10th November 2022

After the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS) had refused to release frozen funds to allow for payment of the reasonable legal fees of Laura and Mukesh Valabhji, the Supreme Court orders it to do so.

10th October 2022

Laura and Mukesh Valabhji engage Zaiwalla & Co Solicitors of London to represent them in both sets of allegations.

8th August 2022

Seychelles Court of Appeal hears Laura Valabhji’s appeal against Chief Justice Govinden’s refusal to grant her bail.

18th July 2022

Leslie Benoiton reappears in Court.

14th July 2022

Sarah Rene and Mr Valabhji plead not guilty to all charges laid to them by the ACCS in the corruption and missing $50 million case.

8th July 2022

The Court of Appeal sets the next hearing date in Mrs Valabhji’s bail appeal. The Court gives reason for this date as there were not enough judges to sit on the panel at the time.

5th – 6th July 2022

Mrs Valabhji attends two hearings at the Court of Appeal. Justice Samia Andre recuses herself from the case as well as Justice Fernando.

4th July 2022

The Supreme Court orders the destruction and disposal of key evidence in the firearms and terrorism case. 160 grenades as well as the cache of arms and ammunition supposedly found at Mr and Mrs Valabhji’s residence in Morne Blanc are ordered to be destroyed.

30th June 2022

The Attorney General files a court order to destroy some of the ammunition evidence relating to the firearms and terrorism case.

20th – 26th June 2022

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) takes place. CHOGM is an international meeting of the de facto leaders from all commonwealth nations. This followed frequent attempts by the Valabhji’s legal team to contact stakeholders via formal letters.

9th June 2022

The Times’ Legal Editor, Jonathan Ames, writes a critical article about the Seychelles landmark case, drawing attention to the lack of due process, retrospective amendment of corruption laws and that the Valabhji’s legal team had contacted Baroness Scotland QC on the case.

26th May 2022

The ACCS brings new charges against Mr and Mrs Valabhji in the Supreme Court that centres on a supposed false document purported to be a loan document.

19th May 2022

ACCS lead counsel Edmund Vickers informs the Court that the law in Seychelles has been changed to permit ACCS to prosecute Laura and Mukesh Valabhji. Chief Justice Govinden permits ACCS to amend the charges to create the effect as if the hastily-passed law had always been in effect.

10th May 2022

Laura Valabhji appeals against Chief Justice Govinden’s decision to refuse to grant her bail.

9th May 2022

Mrs Valabhji files a bail appeal application with the Supreme Court.

6th May 2022

ACCS lead counsel Edmund Vickers admits to the Court that ACCS did not have the power under Seychelles to prosecute Laura of Mukesh Valabhji on the money laundering charges. Chief Justice Govinden nonetheless refuses to dismiss the charges and end the prosecution which ACCS had admitted was not lawful.

9th April 2022

ll accused in the Firearms and Prevention of terrorism case brought by the ACCS plead not guilty.

All accused are remanded for a further 14 days in the corruption case.

25th March 2022

Chief Justice Govinden refuses to grant bail to Laura Valabhji. He says he believes there is a real risk that she would abscond and tamper with prosecution evidence unless she was kept locked up.

8th March 2022

Hearing for Mrs Valabhji’s bail application.

26th February 2022

All defendants in the arms, ammunition and alleged conspiracy to commit terrorism case are remanded and are due to reappear before the court on the 8th March 2022.

Frank Marie is finally released on bail, also due to reappear before the court on 8th March 2022.

21st February 2022

The six defendants who have faced charges since November 2021 are joined by Fahreen Rajan, a British Canadian citizen who is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and concealment of property.

11th February 2022

Mr and Mrs Valabhji, Leslie Benoiton, Leopold Payet and Frank Marie receive a summons from the Supreme Court to answer allegations about five new offences relating to the alleged possession of arms and ammunition, which was purchased by the former government some decades earlier.

All remain held on remand as the authorities continue investigations.

7th February 2022

To escalate the intimidation of the legal community and prevent it from providing representation to the defendants, 4 Seychellois lawyers have their licenses suspended or not renewed for undeclared reasons; all 4 are friends of or had worked for and represented the defendants previously.

5th February 2022

A provisional plea date for the 4th March 2022 is set in the case of the missing USD 50 million.

Note: Despite urging by all defence counsel that the plea should be taken at the earliest opportunity, the plead did not take place on the 4th March 2022.

4th February 2022

The ACCS provide 6,000 documents to the lawyers of the accused on the corruption charges, most are stored electronically but the suspects are provided no means of accessing the contents.

The remand period for Mr and Mrs Valabhji, Sarah Zarqhani René and Leslie Benoiton is extended for an additional 14 days.

28th January 2022

As a result of intimidation of both local and international Counsel, Mrs Valabhji is unable to find suitable legal representation and on 28 January 2022, she is compelled to represent herself as a defendant, with the case being further delayed once again due to lack of legal representation.

The next remand hearing is scheduled for 18 February 2022, 3 months since her incarceration.

21st January 2022

On the morning of Mrs Valabhji’s bail hearing, uncorroborated charges are made against her lead counsel, putting him in a position of professional conflict rendering him unable to represent his client. In addition, Mrs Valabhji’s license is suspended. On the same day, lawyers from Kobre & Kim, a respected international law firm, in attendance as observers at the court, become subject to intimidation by the ACCS. The bail hearing is therefore adjourned to 28 January 2022.

On the same day, Fahreen Rajan, an employee of one of the six defendants Mr Valabhji is arrested at the Seychelles International Airport.

20th January 2022

Police carry out a series of searches under the authority of the Supreme Court, including the Capital Trading building at Providence.

17th January 2022

The arrested financial controller is released on bail and is expected to reappear before the Supreme Court on February 4.

16th January 2022

A financial controller of the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB) at the time of the alleged crime in 2002, is arrested on two offences; corruption and money laundering. The suspect remains unnamed as they are not charged.

7th January 2022

Counsel for Mrs Valabhji appeals to the Court for an order that police must provide her with basic human rights while on remand – time outdoors, access to clean clothing, a sanitary cell, and writing implements to prepare her defence. The Police refuse. Ultimately the Court makes an order to permit reinstatement of some of her rights, but police do not follow through on orders.

The Seychelles Supreme Court rejects, for a second time, a plea for a review of bail conditions for Sarah Zarqhani René.

30th December 2021

Laura and Mukesh further remanded to 7 January 2022. Remand encompasses the corruption offences and further charges relating to firearms found at Laura and Mukesh Valabhji’s house.

29th December 2021

Leopold Payet and Frank Marie are arrested in connection with the arms, ammunition and alleged conspiracy to commit terrorism.

17th December 2021

Formal charges are laid in relation to the money laundering offences as follows. Every defendant indited is connected to the former President, France-Albert René who was a long-standing enemy of current President Ramkalawan. The charges are based on spurious evidence.

Count 1 – Conspiracy to commit Official Corruption contrary to sections 91 and 381 of the Penal Code and punishable under the same sections of the said Penal Code: Mukesh Valabhji and Lekha Nair.

Count 2 – Conspiracy to commit Money Laundering contrary to Sections 3(1)(c) and 3(3) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing Terrorism Act, 2020, and punishable under Section 3(4) of the said Act: Mukesh Valabhji, Laura Valabhji, Andre Leslie Benoiton, and Sarah Zarqani Rene.

Count 3 – Conspiracy to commit Money Laundering contrary to sections 3(1)(a) and 3(3) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act, 2020, and punishable under section 3(4) of the said Act: Mukesh Valabhji and Maurice Jean Leonard Loustau-Lalanne.

Counts 4 through 7 – Official Corruption contrary to section 91 of the Penal Code and punishable under the same section of the said Penal Code: each individually charged – Mukesh Valabhji, Lekha Nair, Andre Leslie Benoiton, and Maurice Jean Leonard Loustau-Lalanne.

Counts 8 through 11 – Money Laundering contrary to sections 3(1)(c) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act, 2020, and punishable under section 3(4) the said Act: each individually charged: Mukesh Valabhji, Sarah Zarqani Rene, Andre Leslie Benoiton, and Laura Valabhji.

Counts 12 and 14 – Stealing by person in public service contrary to sections 253 and 265 of the Penal Code and punishable under section 265 of the said Penal Code: Mukesh Valabhji and Andre Leslie Benoiton.

Count 13 – Aiding and Abetting Stealing by person in public service contrary to section 22(c), 253, and 265 of the Penal Code and punishable under section 265 of the said Penal Code: Lekha Nair.

Counts 15 through 18– Stealing by a director of a company contrary to section 253 and 267 of the Penal Code and punishable under section 267 of the said Penal Code: Mukesh Valabhji, Maurice Jean Leonard Loustau-Lalanne.

Counts 19 through 22 – Concealment of Property contrary to section 37(c) of the Anti-Corruption Act, 2016, punishable under the same section of the said Anti-Corruption Act: Mukesh Valabhji, Sarah Zarqani Rene, Andre Leslie Benoiton, and Laura Valabhjiu.

The court rules that Maurice Jean Leonard Loustau-Lalanne and Lekha Nair can be released on bail. The court sets bail for Sarah Zarqani Rene at US $2,000,000, as well as two sureties to sign a bail bond of US $1,000,000 each. Nair and Loustau-Lalanne make bail and are subsequently released. Loustau-Lalanne is required to report to the Mont Fleuri Police Station at 9am everyday.

Sarah Zarqhani René files an application before the Court of Appeal for her appeal against the bail conditions imposed on to her heard urgently. Sarah maintains that she cannot afford the $2 million that is required to grant her bail.

The accused are scheduled to reappear before the Supreme Court on December 30.

3rd December 2021

The court orders that Laura and Mukesh be remanded for an additional thirty days.

2nd December 2021

Leslie Andre Benoiton, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Seychelles Defense Force, is arrested.

26th November 2021

Lekha Nair, who is the former Director General of the Ministry of Finance in Seychelles, as well as the CEO of the Seychelles Pension Fund, is arrested by the ACCS on allegations of money laundering. Sarah Zarqhani René, widow of former President Albert Rene, is also arrested on allegations of money laundering.

19th November 2021

A bail application is made Mr and Mrs Valabhji but is refused. The Supreme Court states that the ACCS has proven that there was a case to detain all suspects in custody. The Court denies bail on the grounds that if released on bail, they would interfere with witnesses and obstruct the course of justice the Court also indicated them as a flight risk.

18th November 2021

Mukesh Valabhji and Laura Valabhji are arrested in relation to the allegations relating to the apparent misuse of USD 50m.

2nd July 2021

The UK donates 12 new laptops and workstations to the ACCS through the British High Commissioner, Patrick Lynch.

2020 – 2021

Several laws enacted and amendments made to grant ACCS broad prosecutorial powers and amend other laws designed for prosecuting alleged corruption. (Link).

25th October 2020

Wavel Ramkalawan, former Leader of the Opposition and of the Seychelles National Party, is declared the winner of the presidential election.

15th June 2020

COSPROH Inquiry publishes an interim report, commenting on the extensive scope of work that was required. This included requests from ministries, departments and their relevant personnel. However, given the passage of time the Inquiry stated that it “was severely constrained by the passage of time, unavailability of original records and reliable information,” and “importantly, these events date back thirty-five to forty (35-40) years at the time of conducting the inquiry.”

February 2020

Steven Powles QC is sworn in as a State Counsel in Seychelles. He is working with the ACCS prosecution on Mr and Mrs Valabhji’s case and is also currently working as lead counsel for the Attorney General’s office on the arms and ammunition case.

November 2019

The ACCS receives technical support from the European Union, including three senior investigators (Ian McDonald, Kevin Carty and Pat Humphrey), to reinforce the commission’s capacity to conduct investigations, alongside funding of R6.7m (€450,000).

2014-2015

Probe into the offences, which concluded that the case could not be prosecuted due to lack of evidence.

2002

Offences with relation to money laundering alleged to have taken place, approximately 19 years before the current defendants are charged.

1992

Sarah Zarqhani René marries Albert René, then President of Seychelles.

1977

Leopold Payet joins the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces, starting his 41 years of service.