The Platform


Seychelles has charged several individuals in what would best be described as politically motivated.

The story reads as if it was taken out of a political thriller. An upstanding citizen and his wife, a prominent lawyer, associated with the country’s previous government, were arrested and accused of a long list of crimes, all very obviously politically motivated. This story is very real and is part of a drama that is still unfolding as these lines are being written.

Facing a sentence potentially involving years in prison, Mukesh Valabhji and his wife Laura, along with 6 others, are being accused of having facilitated the disappearance of $50 million in 2002. Donated by the United Arab Emirates and earmarked for helping the nation purchase food, the subjects are being accused of conspiring to steal the funds in question.

Interestingly, the most recent of charges being added to the rap sheet includes several other charges. These relate to weapons found at the Valabhji’s residence and are being presented as a cache with which the subject and his wife conspired to commit terror offenses.

The background to the arrests is the victory by Wavel Ramkalawan and his party in 2020. Having sat in the opposition for many years, it is only natural that Ramkalawan would pursue any routes to consolidate power. Valabhji, seemingly the perfect victim, served as the director of the Seychelles Marketing Board (SMB). As the entity through which the donation was made, this is where his guilt allegedly stems from.

However, if you examine the particulars of the case, it more likely stems from the fact that Valabhji and his wife were both close to former President France-Albert René. The political motivation behind the arrests is also evident to the untrained eye by simply examining the identities of those arrested. These include Sarah, René’s widow, his son Leslie Benoiton, a former Chief of the Seychelles People’s Defence Forces, a former presidential chief security officer, and former director-general of the Ministry of Finance.

Aside from the arrest and detention of such “opposition” figures, the most prominent weapon in the government’s arsenal has, of late, been denying detainees their most basic right to legal representation and a fair trial. The accusations levied by the internationally renowned law firm Kobre and Kim, representing Valabhji and his wife in what the firm has referred to as a, “politically motivated show trial,” are extensive. These include employing intimidation and harassment, disqualifying the defendants’ local legal representation, holding the accused in sub-human conditions, as well as obstructing due process.

As if targeting the accused was not sufficient, the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS) has been setting its sights on the lawyers themselves. On the morning of a hearing taking place at the end of January, the local lawyer defending the accused was disqualified with the help of uncorroborated charges.

As if that were not enough, the ACCS targeted the international lawyers as well, accusing them of breaching immigration and employment laws. However, the prosecution themselves have been using international lawyers.

The situation at hand was summed up well by Jonathan Huth of Kobre and Kim who stated, “What we’ve seen to date in the Seychelles Supreme Court can best be described as a show-trial, founded on a politically motivated prosecution case riddled with errors of fact, procedural defects, and breaches of the basic principles of due process.” The tactics utilized by the government naturally make one question the sudden appearance of the weapons charges, which although discussed, were never brought forth as a formal accusation until recently.

The misnomer that is the Anti-Corruption Commission of Seychelles (ACCS), which has all but corrupted the Seychelles justice system, would do well to hold itself to the standards it seeks to hold others to. Granting the accused, no matter what their supposed crime, a free and fair trial would only strengthen the ACCS’s position, if and when, under internationally acceptable conditions, defendants were indeed found guilty.

Having invested millions in the country’s police force, prison service, and justice system, the international community has a moral responsibility to put its foot down. The ACCS and the government of Seychelles must understand that freedom and justice cannot be divvied up and handed out as per convenience. Corruption cannot be fought selectively.

Kate Flask is an American freelance writer and digital nomad who studied creative writing in the UK. She has a personal and professional interest in East Africa and Indian Ocean Islands and Runs Seychelles Watch.