“Which mafiosi? The Prime Minister should not be slow to name them”

Interview: Me Antoine Domingue SC

* ‘We owe it to Franklin and confederates that they have at long last awakened ICAC from its prolonged coma’

* ‘SunTv News is no longer a “soleil levant” but a “soleil couchant” which has since gone underground’

Me Antoine Domingue SC, who has been interviewed several times in this paper on a number of important issues, gives his forthright views on the controversy surrounding the Commissioner of Police’s comment on the DPP’s decision relating to Bruneau Laurette, granting him bail. He also feels that the Prime Minister should elaborate more on his remarks about the mafia having influence on our institutions, and act accordingly in his capacity as PM.

Mauritius Times: In its press communique dated 27 February 2023 the Office of the DPP stated that in the matter of Police v Jean Bruneau Laurette, its decision not to apply for a review of the determination of the magistrate of the District Court of Moka to accede to the bail application of Jean Bruneau Laurette is in the main based on “the stringent conditions imposed by the court and the fact that the risk of interfering with witnesses/tampering with evidence has not been substantiated (by the police)”. The magistrate and the DPP have surely come to their respective decisions based on legal principles. Does the magistrate’s ruling in Police v Laurette create a precedent that would allow any suspected drug trafficker to apply for the same consideration from our courts?

Antoine Domingue: The learned senior district magistrate’s ruling handed down in the Moka court did not seek to establish any precedent. It is not stare decisis (a legal doctrine that obligates courts to follow historical cases when making a ruling on a similar case) and it is not binding over the magistrate who handed it down nor is it binding over any of the other inferior courts. It is only applicable to the case in hand, and it should not be extrapolated to other unrelated cases.

The learned magistrate must surely have borne in mind that the applicant’s son had been previously released on bail, without any demur. The facts and circumstances of each case are bound to differ. Are the other odd 337 pending drug trafficking cases germane to the present one? It is highly unlikely that you will ever find any other drug trafficking case which bears even a faint resemblance with the present one – be it in terms of material circumstances or the dramatis personae.

Precedents are set by superior, not by inferior courts. The precedents from the Supreme Court should be culled from Maloupe and Deelchand as approved and applied by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 2006 in Khoyratty (The State v Khoyratty [2006] UKPC 132). It was preceded in 2005 by Hurnam (Hurnam v. The State (Mauritius) [2005] UKPC 49) where the decision of our local court of appeal was reversed (following an obviously ill-advised application by the then DPP), and the ruling of the then magistrate Aujayeb (now a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court), was restored by the Judicial Committee. These are the precedents by which we stand.

* In a press release the following day, the Commissioner of Police (CP) has described the DPP’s decision as an “evil precedent” that could allow 337 detainees actually on remand for drug trafficking to apply for bail, which he stated “if released, can have a negative impact on the population…”. Even if suspects are entitled constitutionally to a fair trial within a reasonable time, wouldn’t a risk-balancing exercise favour their detention for the good of society?

Those who have chosen to regard this ruling as an ‘evil precedent’ have thereby openly displayed their ignorance of the law. They have confirmed the old saying that “a little learning is a dangerous thing”.

This is the first time in the annals that a press release has been issued by a commissioner of police to openly challenge the release of a detainee in a court of law. The author of the press release, with due respect to him, knows next to nothing about evil. To him, or her, I say this: “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is often interred with their bones” (Julius Caesar).

As I have already explained, such apprehensions are baseless. The balancing exercise you speak of has been conducted ad nauseam by the magistrate. The CP was empowered by statute, within 7 days of the ruling being handed down, to apply to the Supreme Court for the ruling of the magistrate to be set aside. Why did the learned CP not apply timeously?

Given his present martial stand in his press release, one day after the statutory delay had elapsed, upon his return from India, he now owns up to dereliction of duty as he had much more than ample time to apply to the Supreme Court under subsection 4(4)(a) of the Bail Act for the ruling to be set aside by the superior court.

The CP will soon learn, at his own expense that, in such murky waters as he now finds himself, silence is often the path to safety. As the saying goes: ‘Don’t growl when you can’t bite.” Another saying postulates the self-evident proposition that “When you are in a hole stop digging.” As deep, as lonely and as dark as the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta’ with which students of modern history will no doubt be acquainted. For those who are not, they should go and look it up.

* The fact that there are 337 detainees on remand for drug trafficking, as revealed by the CP, would suggest that no prior bail application would have been submitted by the suspects in view of the perceived unlikelihood of being favourably entertained by the courts. Is that indeed the case?

In view of what I have already opined upon, that is quite clearly not the case. Each case must be looked at and decided on its own merits.

* One could assume that the CP, who may be perfectly entitled to disagree with the DPP, must have anticipated the likely fallout of his decision to come out publicly against the DPP’s decision. But do you suspect that the CP who holds a constitutional post would seek clearance from the PMO before taking on the DPP, another constitutional post?

I don’t suspect anything. I deal with facts and with relevant, admissible and credible evidence to establish such facts.

Did the CP seek the PMO’s clearance, you ask? This is for the CP and for the PMO to say. Not for me to speculate upon. The press should enquire, unless the self-evident pompous ignorance and incompetence of the inspirator of the press release is covered by the Official Secrets Act.

* We heard the Prime Minister making known publicly his worries about what he qualified as the “influence” of the mafia on certain institutions — “Je suis inquiet quand je vois comment la mafia a de l’influence sur certaines personnes au sein de nos institutions… On saura qui soutient et aide des présumés criminels… Je ne peux accuser personne…,” he stated. The existence of a mafia and its influence on our institutions is a very serious matter, the more so coming from the Prime Minister himself and who should be the best-informed person of the country, isn’t it?

You are right. This has given rise to serious concern in various quarters. Which persons? Which institutions? Which mafiosi? Do they have a name?

If they have, the Prime Minister should not be slow to name them.

I note that, in the same vein, he strayed in his trend of thought and roped in also the political conviction to fight the drug scourge. These are two different issues. One should not be conflated with the other. He should go and come clean, by stating clearly what he knows, for once.

* That statement of the Prime Minister, which was made in relation to the fight against drug traffickers and possibly to the Franklin investigation, might however be construed as a veiled attempt to influence those same institutions he had in mind but which he did not name. Did you get the same impression?

Perish the thought! It may or may not have crossed his mind. This is not for me to say. He knows better than anyone of us. He looks at it from his own perspective.

It suffices that he should say that he never ever harboured any such anxiety insofar as the judiciary, the DPP and the Bar are concerned. And that he publicly dissociates himself from and unreservedly condemns such anonymous and cowardly defamatory accusations from cyber criminals who seek to undermine the rule of law in a democratic society.

The Prime Minister should, further, publicly state that all the law enforcement agencies should leave no stone unturned to promptly identify, apprehend and bring the offenders to justice.

* By a strange coincidence, there had also been the very serious posts of Sun TV News around the same time, which have since been deleted, but which clearly sought to put in doubt the integrity of the judiciary, the DPP, etc. How do you react to that?

The DPP caused the matter to be immediately reported to the police ever since Saturday last 25 February 2023 at 9 pm, as soon as it was brought to his attention. Which explains why SunTv News is no longer a “soleil levant” but a “soleil couchant” which has since gone underground.

* This is a political question, but I would like to put it to you anyway: Why would the Prime Minister and leader of the ruling alliance want to neutralise Bruneau Laurette, who to date does not seem to have substantiated any of his allegations concerning drug trafficking, alleged collusion between police officers and drug traffickers, corruption… there is nothing concrete but hot air?

With due respect, this is not a political issue. I have not yet heard the prime minister say anything specific about or against Bruneau Laurette. He only spoke in general terms about ‘présumés criminels’ which is a new-fashioned word in his vocabulary. I take it that he was referring to Franklin and his numerous associates and confederates. Some still presumably at large.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 3 March 2023

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