Supreme Court Extends Ex Mauritian Port Chairman Jail Term4 min read
Mauritius Ports Authority, H. Ramnarain Building, Mer Rouge, Port Louis, Mauritius
Former Mauritius Ports Authority Chairman has had his 2019 conviction upheld and sentence extended by the Mauritian Supreme Court.
By Vel Moonien in Mauritius:
Thirteen years after an investigation was launched against former Mauritian minister Siddick Chady, the Mauritian Supreme Court has upheld his conviction for corruption. He was found guilty in November 2019 by the Intermediate Court of having solicited bribes, back in 2006, from the Dutch company Boskalis, which won a dredging contract of the English Canal in Port-Louis’ harbour. In his appeal, however, the Supreme Court has now decided to extend the initial sentence from nine months to fifteen months in jail.
Siddick Chady was then the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Mauritius Ports Authority (MPA), the public body responsible for the management of the country’s Port Louis’ harbour, while the government-run by his close friend was in power.
He received kickbacks via companies owned by his relatives but was ultimately caught for a transfer of 25,000 Euros to the Singaporean bank account of one of his friends to whom he owed the sum.
Siddick Chady raised several issues to challenge the verdict of the Intermediate Court. He argued, among other things, that the documents submitted to the court were fabricated and that the proceedings had dragged on for years, thus depriving him of a fair trial. The judges noted that the trial dragged on for six and a half years largely because of the requests for judicial assistance and the 19 motions raised by his lawyer.
Those motions ranged from procedural flaws to constitutional violations, to allegations of trial by the press and more. The Supreme Court sided with the previous ruling of the Intermediate Court, pointing out that there was ample evidence to show that Chady was bribed by Boskalis. Chady had been nominated at the MPA after his friend Navin Ramgoolam, a medical doctor like himself, returned to power following the 2005 general election.
A year later, a 14.1 million Euro contract was awarded by the MPA to dredge the English Channel so as to allow larger ships berth. Money was wired to the accounts of one of Chady’s family-run companies in the United Kingdom. It was through a fax sent by Boskalis regarding these transactions in one of the movie theatres run in Mauritius by his relatives, which was leaked to a journalist in 2008, that prompted an investigation.
Week after week, the journalist revealed how Chady took money from Boskalis. He denied the allegations and filed a civil suit against the journalist in an attempt to silence him. While losing his seat as Chairman of the MPA, he was also denied to run for the 2010 general elections. Requests for mutual legal assistance were initiated, but Boskalis didn’t wish to cooperate with the enquiry.
In early 2011, the provisional charge against Siddick Chady was dropped due to the delay in gathering the evidence within a reasonable time frame. He was charged again in 2012, with Boskalis finally deciding to collaborate. Boskalis was fined 243 Euros by the Intermediate Court the following year when it admitted having bribed Siddick Chady.
Two of its directors stated that they had made transfers through one of their subsidiaries, Baggermaatschappij Boskalis BV, to the bank account in Singapore. This allowed the Dutch company to avoid prosecution in Europe, as the opposite could have prevented it from participating in public tenders in OECD countries. Emails and faxes with Chady were handed to investigators.
Prakash Maunthrooa, a former director of the MPA acting as an advisor to Boskalis, also stood trial for conspiracy.
However, the trial almost came to an end due to a recurring internet connection problem with the court in Rotterdam, from where the directors of Boskalis preferred to testify over fears for their safety on the island.
Having come to the island within a prescribed time limit to testify against Chady, the defence had put forth motions that prevented the public prosecutor from calling them to the dock. Transmission problems caused the Dutch justice system to threaten to cease all collaboration with the Mauritian justice system. This situation prompted the then leader of the opposition, Paul Bérenger, to accuse the government of doing everything possible to hinder the case.
Also convicted by the Intermediate Court in November 2019, Prakash Maunthrooa was cleared on appeal by the Supreme Court. A special adviser to former Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth, board member of Air Mauritius, and campaign manager of the government alliance in the November 2019 general elections, he was forced to submit his resignation following the guilty verdict.