Thursday, 24 April 2014

Seychelles Turn To China for Public Relations (塞舌尔转到中国的公共关系)

"The real news from Seychelles No Credits From State House"

VICTORIA, April 23 (BERNAMA-NNN- Xinhua) -- Seychelles News Agency, the national news agency of the Indian Ocean island country, has been launched, a press release from Seychelles' Department of Information said.

Seychelles News Agency will give daily "as -it-happens" news and features focusing on the islands' environment, defense and maritime security, energy, tourism and business development, news and views from other Indian Ocean islands and key African events, according to the press release.

The agency is funded by the Department of Information of the Government of Seychelles and has a partnership for world news with Xinhua.

"We are fully engaged in world affairs to fight climate change, as well as ensuring peace and security in the Indian Ocean and East Africa. We want to show the world how a small island state can be a model for sustainable development.

"The Seychelles News Agency will enable the world community to keep up to date with all these events in our islands and the Indian Ocean region," Seychelles President James Michel commented on the website of the news agency.

"Seychelles has a lot to share with the world, to bring its experience and expertise to the attention of the world community. The Seychelles News Agency will help to give us a voice on the world stage, and share some of the interesting events that happen in our islands," Seychelles Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean-Paul Adam said in his part.

With a population of 90,000 people, Seychelles is an African country in the western Indian Ocean. The country has 52 percent of its land territory protected by law as nature reserves, making it the most protected, conservation-minded nation in the world, according to the statement.

Seychelles News Agency is an on-line news service, which is the first of its kind in the small island state, a media official in the Seychelles presidency told Xinhua by email.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Call for the International Criminal Court to Commence an Investigation of Financial Piracy in the Republic of Seychelles

NEW YORK--()--Craig Weiner, Esq. of Hofheimer Gartlir & Gross LLP and Avi Pawar of Aspect Law, on behalf of multiple clients they are representing in lawsuits alleging financial piracy by the Republic of Seychelles, today released the text of a letter sent to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The letter calls for an investigation into the Republic of Seychelles sponsorship of “international financial piracy on a massive scale.”

The complete text of the letter to the International Criminal Court follows below. A copy of the letter, in addition to three Complaints filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York relating to this matter have been provided to the International Criminal Court and also forwarded to the International Monetary Fund and African Development Bank.

International Criminal Court
Office of the Prosecutor
Post Office Box 19519
2500 CM The Hague
The Netherlands
Financial Piracy in the Republic of Seychelles:
Call for an Investigation
To Whom It May Concern:
This communication requests that the Office of the Prosecutor commence an investigation into the Republic of Seychelles for violating the Rome Statute.1 See Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, art. 5, opened for signature July 17, 1998. Hofheimer Gartlir & Gross LLP has been engaged by numerous parties that have been subjected to outrageous conduct in Seychelles. We write to you on behalf of our clients.
The Republic of Seychelles (“Seychelles”) is currently sponsoring international financial piracy on a massive scale. Since 2008, Seychelles has been robbing the bank accounts of legitimate businesses and law abiding citizens from around the world. Seychelles has resorted to extortion, kidnapping for ransom, and threatening children to prevent anyone from challenging its bid to rebuild its foreign reserves through state-sponsored piracy.
The Seychelles and its Financial Intelligence Unit (the “FIU”) have seized over 100 bank accounts from foreign depositors in the last three years. The FIU is purportedly tasked with protecting the financial system of the Seychelles. Instead, it uses its authority to rob foreign depositors of their money. The FIU is staffed by former Irish police and military officers who have been specially hired by the Seychelles for this task and purportedly receive substantial commissions on all monies seized. Specifically, Liam Hogan, Barry Galvin, Declan Barber and Joe Cully staff the FIU.
The modus operandi of the FIU is simple. First, the FIU scouts bank accounts held by foreign depositors in the Seychelles. Next, it uses its authority to freeze and then rob target accounts -- without any justification. Indeed, on more than one occasion, the FIU has frozen account withdrawals, while allowing deposits to continue, in a surreptitious bid to increase the funds the FIU can to confiscate. Last, if an account holder tries to recover his money, the FIU will go to great lengths to stop him.
We are aware of numerous cases in which the FIU has robbed or attempted to rob the bank accounts of innocent businesses and individuals -- three of which have thus far resulted in lawsuits in the U.S.
For example, in the Scholes case, two Britons named Steven Scholes and Terence Stewart were arrested on false charges, kidnapped by the FIU, and ransomed for the money held in their Seychelles based bank accounts. The FIU held them for over three months and threatened them with fabricated drug charges. The FIU repeatedly menaced and interrogated the 14 year old daughter of Mr. Scholes to further intimidate him and his family. The FIU even threatened to imprison Mr. Scholes’ wife, so that his two young daughters would be placed under the custody of the Republic of Seychelles. Under this relentless pressure, Mr. Scholes and Stewart gave in, paid their ransom, and left the Seychelles.
Given these nature of these allegations, the undersigned respectfully requests that the Office of the Prosecutor commence an investigation into the Republic of Seychelles for violations of the Rome Statute. Please feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss this matter and/or need further supporting documentation.
            Very truly yours,
Craig Weiner
Hofheimer Gartlir & Gross LLP
Avi Pawar
Aspect Law

The True Face of the FIU in Seychelles

Declan Barber

Privacy within the business sector can be a difficult subject. On one hand, everyone wants confidentiality for their own finances. On the other, sometimes people need information about outright corruption and fraud to come out. This is true both for a company running a scam, and for the oversight processes which are supposed to prevent it from happening. A prime example of this can be seen with the FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit) in Seychelles.

Many people who use the service simply assume that they're a government agency. In fact, it's quite possible that the FIU intentionally pushes that image into the public sector.

The FIU operates, essentially, by doing very little until they're specifically contacted about a company. Now, most people would assume that the next step would be actual investigation into the nature of the company. Instead, the FIU dips into the financial records of the company. The hope is that the company will have significant assets. If a company doesn't, the complaint will basically just be ignored after that point. If a company does show significant wealth, the FIU springs into action. The company's account will be quickly frozen, and the FIU will proceed with any number of attempts to browbeat or even outright blackmail them.

The FIU will also make attempts to grab money to cover "legal expenses". Often to the point of just demanding half of all total holdings, in what amounts to something that gives a very strong impression of outright blackmail.

The larger question here isn't about the corruption of the FIU, but why Seychelles itself is so oddly silent on the matter. Perhaps one of the biggest mysteries is why the FIU even exists as a non-governmental agency. Some people speculate that the reason comes down to accountability.

As an outside party, the government can always show non-involvement with any wrongdoing. Many of these same people also speculate about where the FIU's end profit actually ends up. It isn't unheard of for situations like this to arise and continue due to government officials receiving large amounts of cash to ignore the crimes taking place in front of them. Whether that's the case here or not remains open to speculation at the moment. However, the important thing is to keep the questions in mind. It's a strange situation which raises any number of different issues relating to possible corruption.

By joyyoj86,

Monday, 21 April 2014

Switzerland to give Ben Ali money to Tunisia

Speaking on Swiss public radio, chief prosecutor Michael Lauber said the transfer of the funds had been made possible thanks to the cooperation of Tunisia's new authorities.

The Swiss launched their investigation after Tunisia filed a request for legal assistance alleging that ill-gotten gains had been hidden in the Alpine country.

The Ben Ali family still has the option of contesting the money's handover by filing an appeal at the Swiss supreme court.

Ben Ali's January 2011 ouster after a groundswell of demonstrations marked the start of the Arab Spring.

He has since gained asylum in Saudi Arabia while his son-in-law Sakher El Materi, once considered a potential successor, has fled to the Seychelles.

A World Bank report last month detailed the family's grip on the economy during Ben Ali's 23-year reign.

It found 220 companies owned by family members, accounting for 21 percent of net private sector profits in Tunisia, with regulations often tailored to benefit their businesses.

In the wake of Ben Ali's overthrow, Switzerland blocked the equivalent of $68.5 million (50 million euros) in accounts held in the country.

With $40 million set to be handed over, investigations into the origin of the remaining $28.5 million are continuing.

Lauber said he hoped to be able to transfer those remaining funds in the near future.

"There are still several million dollars frozen in Switzerland. We're trying to make progress on this issue," he said, without offering a likely timeframe.

Kleptocrats' Loot Could Rebuild Ukraine

The International Monetary Fund has pledged about $18 billion in loans to help stabilize Ukraine's beleaguered economy. That amount is a fraction of the $35 billion that Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk says is needed from the international community to avert a default over the next two years.
It shouldn't be this way. Ukraine's financing hole is itself only a fraction of the loot former President Viktor Yanukovych, his family and close personal allies are accused of embezzling: $20 billion of the national gold reserves and a further $70 billion funneled to offshore entities around the world. The recovery of even a small part of these national assets would go a long way toward covering the financing shortfall, and could avert the need to implement punishing austerity measures.
Unfortunately, recent cases -- including Nigeria and countries that experienced the Arab Spring such as Egypt and Tunisia -- demonstrate that gaps in global collaboration make it difficult, if not impossible, for nations to repatriate even small amounts of stolen assets.
A big reason is the weakness of the global regime for fighting money laundering, which is administered by the Financial Action Task Force. This club of 36 countries is currently led by a Russian official who is an adviser to his own government. His dual role may itself be a drag on effective asset recovery.

The FATF has identified 40 recommendations for combating money laundering and nine special recommendations for countering the financing of terrorism. These have become part of the international standards and codes overseen by the IMF and the World Bank.
Only 11 states are considered to be noncompliant with the FATF’s recommendations. But why do some “compliant” countries appear to have a role in the laundering of Ukrainian assets? These include such familiar havens as the Seychelles and the British Virgin Islands, as well as Austrian banks, U.K.-registered limited liability partnerships, and Russian and Central Asian banks and nonfinancial firms.

The reason is the practice of mock compliance by nations that formally adopt international financial standards on their legislative and regulatory books but fall short of substantively implementing them. This flaw could be addressed in two ways.
First, international efforts to monitor substantive compliance with anti-money-laundering standards must be enhanced. International agencies shouldn’t settle for the mere inclusion of anti-money-laundering laws in national legislation. Making sure these laws are enforced could be achieved through a review process that takes into account the analysis of international law enforcement specializing in international financial crime. In soliciting the opinion of these officials, the IMF and FATF could better identify countries that are more susceptible to money laundering and target those that engage in mock compliance. Countries that have been repeatedly implicated in global money laundering should no longer be able to hide embezzled public assets.
This alone wouldn’t be sufficient. It should be complemented by positive incentives to improve compliance.

Ukraine could be a test case. Retrieving its plundered treasure would require retracing what is often a circular flow of funds. Money moves out of Ukraine to, say, a Russian corporation, which then lends it back to Ukraine. Scrutinizing the nation's private sector debt could yield enormous amounts of information about the missing assets.
Second, IMF and World Bank shareholders should require that technical assistance programs support the identification, reporting and prosecution of money laundering. They also should ensure that these rules are enforced as a condition of lending packages. As things stand, the international anti-money-laundering regime is plagued by the misalignment of incentive structures. Countries that are the most vulnerable to money laundering have the most to gain and the least to lose from engaging in the practice.
Existing agreements ask those countries to invest government time and resources in investigating money-laundering cases that have a relatively limited impact on the stability of domestic financial systems or economic growth.

Ukrainians shouldn't have to wait years or decades for the Yanukovych assets to be tracked down. Their prompt return would provide a signal for other populations suffering under dictatorship and kleptocracy that change is possible and beneficial.
There is a simple way to align the incentives of the creditors in a multilateral assistance package with those of the populations they are assisting. The recovery of looted assets should be used as the security for the repayment of the IMF credits. This would encourage creditors to look harder for the looted funds; and the debtors would be unburdened. It also might be possible to securitize private sector loans on the basis of a recovery process to recapture the stolen wealth of fallen dictators.
The linkage of assistance and asset recovery would provide economic and financial relief to fragile reformers, and it would offer political relief and a real demonstration of global solidarity. Developing countries have had few incentives to support the global transparency regime. An effective international effort will only work if ordinary people -- workers and voters in poorer countries -- see that they benefit quickly and directly from the restoration of financial honesty.

Friday, 18 April 2014

The Suppression of Heresy

Knock...Knock...It's me Ste Ange!

Apr 17, 2014
The Seychelles Ministry of Tourism and Culture has echoed for a multi-sectarian meeting with government authorities, destination management companies, tourism establishments, and airline companies to discuss pertinent issues raised in its series of door-to-door meetings with these respective trade partners in the tourism industry. Alain St.Ange, the Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture, believes that this cohesive approach is pivotal to get everyone in a roundtable discussion to look and assess issues raised by destination management companies, tourism establishments, and airlines touching different ministries such as finance, land use and habitat, environment, employment, transport, and others.
“For the tourism industry to continue to move forward, it is today more important than ever before to have a round-table discussion between the private sector and a cross-section of other ministries. Many issues raised in the door-to-door visits cannot be solved by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture alone. The private sector trade recognizes the need for this meeting, so that they can meet with the ministries concerned and together look at some issues which are persisting,” Minister St.Ange said.
On Friday, April 11, Minister Alain St.Ange; Anne Lafortune, the Principal Secretary for Tourism; Jennifer Sinon, the Director of Human Resource at the Seychelles Tourism Board; and Sinha Levkovic continued with the ministry's door-to-door visits at destination management companies and airlines after their initial series of meetings at tourism establishments at Praslin which was followed by one at Emirates Airlines. Mihin Lanka was the first airline company the Minister and his technicians visited last Friday. The ministerial delegation was welcomed by Sandy Kellar, General Manager of Mihin Lanka, and his team. Mihin Lanka started its operation in Seychelles in 2013 with an Airbus A320 and A340.
Sandy Kellar briefed the Minister and his team on the company’s plan to add a third frequency during the course of the year on the Seychelles-Colombo route. The General Manager of Mihin Lanka proudly announced a newly-introduced, twelve-seater business class on its flights from the month of June. Minister St.Ange said that he was happy to hear that Mihin Lanka was growing its passenger numbers and that it was tapping successfully into the Chinese market. Minister St.Ange encouraged the Seychelles Tourism Board to work more closely with Mihin Lanka to further develop the Chinese market for Seychelles. Challenges seen by Mihin Lanka were discussed with Minister St.Ange in the presence of the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka accredited to Seychelles.
The Minister’s next stop last Friday was at Pure Escapes, a travel agency specializing in the former East Bloc market. Besides Russia being Pure Escapes' core market, 40% of its clients are from the Ukraine. Pure Escapes is also venturing into new markets such as Georgia and Azerbaijan.
The Minister then visited Mason's Travel, Elite Travel, and Creole Travel Services.
Joseph Albert, Creole Travel Services Chairman, described Minister St.Ange’s visit to the DMCs and at Creole Travel Service as historical.
“You’ve made our day, Minister. It’s the first time a Minister of Tourism has set foot in Creole Travel Services to talk with our workers and our management team. We’ve heard a lot of tourism being the country’s prime income earner. Creole Travel Services financially contributes immensely to this economy,” said Joseph Albert, the Chairman of Creole Travel Services.
After this visit, Minister St.Ange visited Air Seychelles’ head office at the airport which was the last meeting of the first phase of visits to destination management companies and airlines. At Air Seychelles, Minister St.Ange was welcomed by Manoj Papa, the Chief Executive of Air Seychelles, and his corporate team. Minister St.Ange congratulated Air Seychelles on its brilliant success in recording a second consecutive year of net profitability.
“The Ministry of Tourism and Culture recognizes your company’s success and congratulates you for this brilliant performance. Today, the airline is on solid footing and growing year by year,” said Minister St.Ange. The Minister also thanked Air Seychelles with their partner Etihad for being the partner airline for the Carnaval International de Victoria.
The corporate team of the airline briefed the Minister on the upcoming projects, among which includes the company’s new approach to market the airline and destination in Mauritius and other target markets. The company also briefed the Minister of the program to introduce its new signature dish on its airline - a joint partnership with the island's hotels and restaurants. The airline desires for hotels to re-look into their packages in the traditional low period.
Pertinent issues that were raised during meetings with destination management companies included an appeal to re-look at the government’s decision to close down fast-track immigration counter services for destination management companies as of June 2014. Destination management companies said the service is vital for its discerning clients. Some destination management companies voiced concerns over their suppliers bypassing the government regulation for transactions in the country to be in local currency only. Minister St.Ange said that anyone transacting in foreign currency was acting “illegally” as it defeats the efforts of the Seychelles government to see transaction in local currency only. The Minister said he will address this concern with the Ministry of Finance.
Withholding tax on marketing, advertising, and promotion was another concern raised by some destination management companies. This was seen as punishing them for going out to market Seychelles as they argued that most of their promotions and marketing are done overseas and not in Seychelles. Destination management companies re-enforced the need for closer working partnerships with hotels, large and small.
The Ministry of Tourism and Culture said at the end of the day's visit that it believes that the door-to-door visits at airlines and destination management companies was as important as the visit to hotel establishments are.
“It is more than ever important to have this open dialogue with the private sector. This keeps us abreast with how the private sectors work, and gets us to better understand their challenges. During today's visits, it was clear that everyone wants to work with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and the Tourism Board to consolidate the industry for the long term. Yes, we have challenges, but they can and they will be resolved only by everyone working together,” Minister Alain St.Ange said.
Minister St.Ange said that he will complete the visits with DMCs and airlines in the coming week as he also continues with the door-to-door visits on Praslin before moving on with that exercise on La Digue, Mahe, and the other islands. Following this series of meetings, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture is hoping to organize group meetings with destination management companies, airlines, large hotels, small hotels, and stand-alone restaurants. The Minister said that after that he will look at dive centers, boat charter companies, car hires, and boat charter companies.