- Limitation of payment in cash is an effective strategy for countering financial abuse
- The evidential and legal burden rest upon the respondent to show, on a balance of probabilities, that the transaction falls within one of the exempt categories
La Cour suprême ordonne un nouveau procès contre l’ancien Premier ministre, le Dr Navin Ramgoolam, dans l’affaire de fortes sommes d’argent retrouvées dans ses coffres-forts. Dans un jugement rendu le mardi 30 août, les juges Iqbal Maghooa et Renuka Dabee ont accédé à l’appel interjeté par le Directeur des poursuites publiques. Me Satyajit Boolell, contestant l’acquittement de Navin Ramgoolam en novembre 2019. Les juges annulent ainsi la décision de la Cour intermediaire.
Les juges ont ordonné un nouveau procès devant la Cour intermédiaire devant un nouveau bench vu que les deux magistrats, notamment Navina Parsuramen, Principal State Counsel, et Pranay Sewpal, Assistant Solicitor General, qui ont entendu cette affaire sont désormais basés au bureau de l’Attorney General.
Pour rappel, Navin Ramgoolam avait été arrêté en 2014 à son bureau à la Rue Desforges, à Port-Louis. Lors d’une perquisition de sa maison à Riverwalk, un peu plus de Rs 220 millions avait été découvert dans ses coffres-forts.
Les magistrats Pranay Sewpal et Navina Parsuramen avaient rayé les 23 accusations retenues contre Navin Ramgoolam, notamment pour « limitation of payment in cash » le 19 novembre 2019. Dans leur jugement, les magistrats avaient qualifié les accusations contre Navin Ramgoolam comme étant « vagues ».
Navin Ramgoolam était accusé d’avoir accepté plus de Rs 63.8 millions en espèces entre le 31 janvier 2009 et le 7 février 2015, entre autres. Après cela, le DPP avait contesté cette décision en déposant 18 points d’appels en cour suprême le 22 novembre 2019. Le DPP avait interjeté appel.
“We find that all the grounds of appeal are well taken. We accordingly allow the appeal, quash the Ruling of the learned Magistrates and remit the matter to the Intermediate Court for the case to be heard on the merits before a differently constituted Bench as both Magistrates who delivered the Ruling in the present matter are now posted at the Attorney General’s Office.”
Le Directeur des Poursuites Publiques avait soulevé 18 points lors de son appel.
- The learned Magistrates erred in holding that the identity of the payer was a material circumstance, under section 125 of the District and Intermediate Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, which had to be averred and proved.
- The learned Magistrates erred in finding that the information was not sufficiently particularised and did not meet the tests of certainty and precision.
- The learned Magistrates wrongly found that the particulars did not sufficiently provide reasonable information as to the nature of the charge under section 5 of the Financial Intelligence and Anti-Money Laundering Act.
- The learned Magistrates utterly failed to appreciate that the identity of the payer does not relate to the conduct constituting the commission of the offence charged and therefore need not be averred (or provided as particulars upon demand) and proved by the prosecution.
- The learned Magistrates erred in dismissing the information after having found that the prosecution was not unreasonably refusing to provide particulars.
- The learned Magistrates erred in law in dismissing the information on the ground that it is “bad for being vague and uncertain”.
- The learned Magistrates, having wrongly concluded that the particulars did not meet the requirements of section 125 of the District and Intermediate Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act and section 17 of the Criminal Procedure Act, consequently erred in finding that the accused would be unfairly prejudiced in the preparation of his defence.
- The learned Magistrates wrongly concluded that the identity of the payer was essential to inform the accused in detail of the nature of the charge in breach of section 10(2)(b) of the Constitution.
- The learned Magistrates were wrong to have found that the prosecution’s case was reduced to one of mere possession of money.
- The learned Magistrates wrongly dismissed the charges ex facie the information and in the absence of any concrete evidence of material prejudice.
- The learned Magistrates wrongly found that the accused would be deprived of his right to cross-examination and that “the light of truth may never break through” inasmuch as these findings were not based on evidence, were premature and irrelevant at that stage of proceedings.
- The learned Magistrates were wrong to dismiss the information after having arbitrarily surmised on the strength of the prosecution’s case and the implications of the unavailability of the payer before even hearing any evidence.
- The learned Magistrates failed to consider that the element of ‘accepting payment’ could also be proved by other evidence and not by solely calling the payer to depose.
- The learned Magistrates failed to appreciate properly that the particulars already described the material circumstances of the offence and also failed to appreciate the nature of the offence and the significance of disclosure of the brief to the accused.
- The learned Magistrates were wrong to “imagine the intractable problem being faced by the accused in preparing his defence to be able to meet the prosecution’s case.” Such a finding should not be left to the imagination but should rather be based on evidence.
- The learned Magistrates wrongly held that further particulars were needed to enable the accused to put a defence, particularly, that of an exempt transaction.
- The learned Magistrates failed to appreciate that the absence of the identity of the payer would not prevent the accused from determining if the transactions were exempt pursuant to section 2 of the Financial Intelligence and Anti-Money Laundering Act.
- The learned Magistrates failed to appreciate that the onus of proof, under section 5 of the Financial Intelligence and Anti-Money Laundering Act, rests on the accused with regard to the statutory defence of exempt transaction.
La Cour a regroupé les raisons d’appels en quatre parties comme suit : A. Particulars of the identity of the payer and nature of the charge. Grounds 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 13. B. Risk of prejudice in the absence of the particulars of the identity of the payer. Grounds 7, 8, 10, 14 and 15. C. Exempt transaction. Grounds 16, 17 and 18. D. Remaining grounds of appeal. Grounds 5, 9, 11 and 12.
“We note that the learned Magistrates did not consider the nature of the offence created under section 5(1) of the FIAMLA, which is limitation of payment in cash, when addressing the issue as to whether it was material to provide particulars of the identity of the payer”, écrivent les juges de la Cour Suprême.
Ils observant également que: “It is trite law that an accused party should know with a certain degree of precision what charge he has to meet which is not a mere formality. However, the learned Magistrates failed to make the distinction between the elements of the offence which need to be averred in the information and the material circumstances in the form of particulars. The furnishing of particulars is governed by strict rules of procedure. Particulars are given as a matter of law when the offence is not sufficiently clear or particularised in the information. The identity of the payer does not relate to the conduct constituting the commission of the offence.”
Les juges Maghooa et Dabee poursuivent également leurs argumentaires en ces termes : “Limitation of payment in cash is an effective strategy for countering financial abuse and the policy of the legislator was clearly designed to achieve the objective of safeguarding the national and international financial system against money laundering which may adversely affect the social, economic and democratic set up. The burden lies on the prosecution to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, all the elements of the offence under section 5(1) of the FIAMLA. The evidential and legal burden rest upon the respondent to show, on a balance of probabilities, that the transaction falls within one of the exempt categories. The identity of the payer is a matter which is within the knowledge of the respondent and is readily provable by him. We, therefore, conclude that the learned Magistrates were wrong to hold that the failure to provide particulars of the identity of the payer would deny the respondent the opportunity of invoking and raising the defence of exempt transaction under the FIAMLA.”
L’avocat de Navin Ramgoolam, Me Gavin Glover, dans une déclaration à la presse, indiqué que son client fera probablement appel devant le Privy Council. « Je ne suis évidemment pas d’accord avec les conclusions légales de la Cour suprême. Nous allons très probablement faire appel sur les points de droit qui ont été avancés par le DPP», a déclaré Me Gavin Glover.
Sollicité pour une déclaration par la presse, le directeur des poursuites publiques (DPP), Me Satyajit Boolell, Senior Counsel, soutient que la Cour d’appel s’est prononcée uniquement sur le point préliminaire ayant trait à l’accusation et non sur le fond de l’affaire.
Par conséquent, dit-il, l’affaire doit suivre son cours et il incombera à la cour intermédiaire de déterminer à la lumière des différents témoignages, si l’accusation a été établie ou pas. Cela dit, précise le DPP, la présomption d’innocence reste toujours de mise et il n’est pas opportun de spéculer outre mesure.