May 2011 was a momentus month for Seychelles, as everyone will know there was the Presidential Elections, which the incumbent President James Michel of Parti Lepep won with almost 56% of the votes cast. Coming in at a fairly distant second was SNP candidate and the Leader of Opposition Wavel Ramkalawan, with almost 42% of the votes cast. But May 2011 also had other interesting developments, particularly in the sphere of the law courts. There was the Constitutional Court challenge of Mr Viral Dhanjee, whose constitutional right to participate in Government was breached when he was prevented in taking part in the said Presidential Elections (as declared by the Constitutional Court!). There is another Constitutional Court challenge from Mr Philippe Boulle, on the voting rights of detainees and prisoners, this case is yet to be decided upon.
But there were two other cases decided in the Supreme Court of Seychelles, which made important and potentially far reaching judicial precedent, which the Seychelles press has been completely silent about. Perhaps the Presidential Elections and the above Constitutional Court challenges drowned them out. But the Robing Room will report.
The first of these two cases is the case of the Financial Intelligence Unit v/s Sentry Global Securities Ltd & Ors, decided in the Supreme Court of Seychelles before Chief Justice Egonda-Ntende. In this case, the Financial Intelligence Unit ("FIU"), sought to confiscate the funds in bank accounts held by 13 entities held in Seychelles offshore bank accounts. The FIU brought in some evidence against some of the parties, but all of it was very circumstantial, and in fact, the main evidence against several other parties is simply that the corporate entities had the same contact address. A lot of the so-called evidence were also unsupported by any documentary proof, which should have been easily obtainable, for example, the FIU alleged that there were cases against the Respondents in US Courts but then failed to present any judgments or orders from these US Courts against the Respondents. The FIU case was dismissed against all of the Respondents. What does this case mean? Well, the Supreme Court is basically telling the FIU that they should come to court with the best evidence available rather than a string of circumstantial and hearsay evidence.
Another noteworthy case decided this month was the case of Oceana (Pty) Ltd v/s The Land Registrar, in this case, the Petitioner brought a judicial review case against the Land Registrar for failing to register a transfer of land. In this case, decided by the Chief Justice in the Supreme Court, it was held that the Land Registrar had failed to use his/her powers as prescribed by law and that the conduct of the Land Registrar in refusing to register a land transfer was inexcusable, indefensible and an outright abuse of power. This case shows the failings in our public institutions and points out that public institutions are now even ignoring or refusing to follow the law. However, this is but one of the very rare cases in which the failings of the Land Registrar is exposed. The Government should act on this case and take this occasion to improve the functioning of the Land Registrar and the Registrar General's Office in general. Surely it cannot help public confidence and investor confidence if our Land Registrar simply ignores or refuses to abide by the law.
Both of these cases are available from SAFLII and you may click on case names (above) to access the whole of the said judgments.
The Robing Room is the official blog of the Seychelles Legal Environment Website (sites.google.com/site/theseychelleslegalenvironment), the only website about the Seychelles Legal Environment that is constantly updated.