This letter is issued to all legal practitioners and notaries in Seychelles, pursuant to the supervisory jurisdiction conferred upon the Supreme Court by section 7 of the Legal Practitioners Act (Cap 111) and section 11 of the Notaries Act (Cap 149).
Practitioners are reminded that the acquisition of any interest in any matter in which they give their services as an attorney-at-law or notary is absolutely prohibited by law (this includes the acquisition of client’s immovable and movable property or an interest therein). Breach of this prohibition constitutes not only professional misconduct but also a serious criminal offence punishable by imprisonment.
An attorney who exploits the practitioner-client relationship for personal advantage, or who allows a direct conflict of interest to arise with his or her client, or who appears in Court in a matter in which he or she is a potential witness, will also be in breach of other fundamental rules of professional conduct (refer particularly rules 5(1) and 11(3) and (5) of the Legal Practitioners (Professional Conduct) Rules, 2013). But the rule against acquisition of interest is not limited to these situations. It is, for good reason, absolute. There are no exceptions.
Practitioners are further reminded of the obligations arising as a “reporting entity” under the Anti‑Money Laundering Act, 2006 (Cap 9A) to the extent that you provide legal or notarial services in relation to, inter alia, the buying and selling of land or business entities and the management of client assets.
These obligations are also backed by very serious criminal sanctions. They include obligations to carry out due diligence before and during the client relationship, to keep full records of that due diligence and of all transactions and related correspondence, and to report suspected money laundering and other criminal conduct without delay to the Financial Intelligence Unit.
Whether you practice as a reporting entity or not, all attorneys are further reminded of your obligation to deal with all moneys received from or on account of your clients in strict compliance with the provisions of the Control and Protection of Clients’ Accounts Act (Cap 44). This includes the maintenance of a specifically designated client account, regular reporting to the Registrar of Companies, the preservation of all relevant records, and submission to annual audit by the office of the Auditor General. Once again, these obligations are backed by serious criminal sanctions.
Further, the provisions of Anti-Corruption Act 2016 make it an offence for the use of your position to obtain property or a benefit of any kind, whether directly or indirectly, and whether for you or for another person and to conceal property or to acquire property knowing that such property is the proceeds of corruption. It is also an offence to give or promise a reward or gratification of any kind to a public officer (including officers of the court).
I take this opportunity to emphasise to all practitioners that breach of these fundamental regulatory obligations cannot and will not be tolerated within the Seychelles legal profession. Those attorneys and notaries who require time to place their affairs in order and bring themselves into compliance must begin to do so immediately. I emphasise specifically that any reported acquisition of interest, direct or indirect, by any practitioner in any client matter after the date of this letter will be referred for criminal investigation.
On behalf of the Supreme Court and the wider Judiciary I extend my appreciation to the legal profession as a whole for your continuing efforts in service of the rule of law and the people of Seychelles. Those efforts do not go unnoticed and they remain absolutely fundamental to the successful administration of justice in this country.
Chief Justice, Supreme Court, Seychelles
Source : Seychelles NATION