R v Uzor (MC 21/2021) [2022] SCSC 47 (24 January 2022);

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Forfeiture of cash seized and detained under statutory authorisation

B. ADELINE, J

  1. This is an application by the Republic, made by way of Notice of Motion supported by an affidavit dated 09th December 2021, sworn by one Sub-inspector Jude Bistoquet of the Financial Crime Investigation Unit (FCIU) of the Seychelles Police Force.  The Application is made under the statutory provisions of Section 76 (1) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act 2020 (AMLCFTA) as amended.
  2. The facts that led to the seizure and detention of the cash in USD and EURO as borne out by the affidavit of Sub-inspector Jude Bistoquet and his sworn oral testimony, are that on the 29th October 2021, the ANB arrested the Respondent Ifeanyi, Jeremiah Uzor as part of an ongoing drugs investigation, for an interview and a search subsequently.
  3. The following day, the 30th October 2021, ANB Officers conducted a search at Roche Caiman, Eden Village where Mr. Uzor and his partner, one Nadya Valentin live. The search followed the interview.
  4. Whilst the search was being conducted inside the house, cash in different foreign currencies, notably USD and EURO, in different denomination adding up to the total sum of SCR 383, 219.35 were found.
  5. In answer to questions put to him, as to the ownership of the cash found, the Respondent Mr. Uzor, stated, that the cash found belong to him having received them from “a gay British friend he had been seeing” and that this “British Guy” has since left the country.
  6. In his affidavit as well as in his oral testimony, Sub-inspector Bistoquet stated, that the Respondent Ifeanyi, Jeremiah, Uzor, is a Nigerian National who came to Seychelles in 2006.  He was granted a Gainful Occupational Permit (GOP) and he was employed by Ephelia Resort. In 2018, he was arrested and subsequently charged for drugs trafficking and a criminal case against him filed as CR 64/2018 is continuing.  Mr. Uzor has since lost his job and no longer has a GOP.  He remains in this country awaiting for the final outcome of the case against him.
  7. In his affidavit evidence which was further confirmed by his oral testimony, Sub-inspector Bistoquet, making reference to case CR64/2018, stated, that Uzor and his other co-accused are charged with the offence of trafficking in a control drug and conspiracy to traffic in a controlled drug.  Criminal charges were brought against them jointly, because they had agreed to import into the country diamorphine (heroin) having a net weight of 579.48 grams and a total average of heroin content of 300.56 grams.  As per his deposition, they were apprehended trafficking in a controlled drug in a motor vehicle Hyundai registration number S13225 on the 23rd October 2018.
  8. It is the deposition of Sub-inspector Bistoquet, having had sight of the record of the proceedings pertaining to case CR 64/2018, that Uzor acted oblivious in respect of both incidents when called upon for an explanation, and that in respect of both incidents, he manifested similar trait that shows that he has not been credible in his answer on both occasions.  It is in evidence, that cash was seized in Uzor’s possession by the ANB in case CR64/2018 similar to the current case, and that the cash included foreign currencies.
  9. As per Sub-inspector Bistoquet’s testimony, the cash seized in respect of both incidents are cash generated from drugs trafficking, and because of Uzor’s fear that the instant case may impact on the case against him in CR64/2018, Uzor “lied and fabricated a story to cover up for the cash”, having not obtained them legally.
  10. It is averred by Sub-inspector Bistoquet, that there have been similar pattern and excuses from Uzor in respect of both incidents, in that, he has been lying in both instances.  He considers Uzor’s statement in case CR64/2018 that he thought that heroin was legal in Seychelles as an “odd excuse, having been in Seychelles since 2016”.  Another example, is that in case 64/2018, Uzor stated that he met some guys smoking drugs on the beach and that is where he established his contact.  According to Sub-inspector Bistoquet, that story, is similar to his story when he was called upon to account for the cash in his possession, that “he met a British Guy on the beach”.
  11. It is Sub-Inspector Bistoquet’s affidavit evidence, which is also reflected in his oral testimony, that Uzor’s partner Nadya Valentin, was interviewed on the 04th November 2021.  Nadya Valentin works as a Constituency Clerk at the Plaisance District and earns a monthly salary of SR 9, 800/-.  She confirmed, that Uzor is unemployed, and that she is the one assisting him with housing accommodation as well as meeting the household expenses, and that is because she is renting a house at Cosovo, Roche-Caiman for SR 8, 000/- per month.  It is the finding and conclusion of Sub-inspector Bistoquet, that Nadya Valentin could not have generated this amount of cash to give to Uzor and that she was unaware that Uzor had in his possession this amount of cash, as clearly, the cash was hidden from her and she had no knowledge of the same until she came to know about it when that was brought to her attention.  According to Sub-inspector Bistoquet, Uzor’s behaviour raises a reasonable suspicion that the cash were not from a legitimate source.
  12. Sub-inspector Bistoquet deponed, that when Uzor was interviewed on the 05th November 2021, he stated, that he received the cash USD and EURO, as payments from one Graham, a British gentleman with whom he was having sexual intercourse and who has since left Seychelles.  According to Uzor, he was approached by this gentleman who proposed the relationship, and he agreed to it because he was to be paid, Graham was a wealthy person, and he needed the money.  That, amid the fact, that Nadya  Valentin claimed that she was the only one supporting the family financially to meet the household expenses although Uzor occasionally made a financial contribution of SCR 1, 000/-.
  13. Sub-inspector Bistoquet deponed, that Nadya Valentin’s bank statement pertaining to account No 4184286 held at the Barclays Bank (Seychelles) Limited now the ABSA Bank, shows that it is more or less consistent with her answers to questions put to her during her interview, and concluded, that “she was not generating enough cash to give to Uzor”.  Uzor himself, had a bank account held at the Mauritius Commercial Bank, MCB, and at the time of his release on bail in case CR64/2018, the balance was around SCR 2, 900/-.  In October 2020 he closed the account.
  14. On account of the facts laid before this Court by way of the affidavit evidence of Sub-inspector Bistoquet, and to some extent his oral evidence as rehearsed in the preceding paragraphs of this Order, I am satisfied, that the cash seized is not less than the prescribed sum of SCR 50, 000/- under Section 74 (10) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act 2020 (AMLCFA) as amended.  I am equally satisfied, that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the cash seized which is mentioned in the Table of the Notice of Motion, by virtue of Section 74 (2) (a) and (b) of the AMLCFA directly or indirectly represents benefits from an offence in respect of controlled drugs, or was intended for the use in connection with such an offence.
  15. I therefore order the forfeiture of the cash in foreign currencies as described in the Table to the Notice of Motion dated 09th December 2021 converted in the total sum of Seychelles rupees three hundred and eighty three thousand and two hundred and nineteen and thirty five cents only (SCR 383, 219.35).

 

Signed, dated and delivered at Ile du Port on 24th January 2022.

 

_____________________

B. Adeline

Judge of the Supreme Court