Mauritian Premier Says Inquiry Ordered by President Is Illegal

(Bloomberg) -- Mauritius’s prime minister said the president’s appointment of a commission of inquiry into regulators’ dealings with Angolan businessman Alvaro Sobrinho and the local media’s leaking of her bank records is illegal.

President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim ordered the probe earlier on Friday, two days after saying she “inadvertently” spent money from the Planet Earth Institute, founded by Sobrinho, on “out-of-pocket expenses” during missions for the charity. Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth on Thursday accused Gurib-Fakim of backpedaling on a pledge to stand down over the incident and vowed to take unspecified action.

“This act of the president constitutes a serious violation of section 64 of the constitution and is legally invalid and of no effect,” Jugnauth’s office said in an emailed statement on Friday. “Any purported action by any person pursuant to this unlawful act of the president will be equally invalid and unlawful.”

Gurib-Fakim said the commission of inquiry will be headed by lawyer Sir Hamid Moollan and will investigate, among other things:

  • An application to the Financial Services Commission for an investment-banking license made by companies in which Sobrinho has stakes
  • Due diligence carried out by the FSC on Sobrinho’s companies
  • Whether the FSC, central bank or other regulators received adverse reports on companies or entities owned by Sobrinho
  • Whether there was any interference in Sobrinho being granted an investment-banking license
  • The circumstances that led to the publication of Gurib-Fakim’s banking records in the Mauritian press.

Sobrinho is the chief executive officer of the London-based PEI, a charity that seeks to advance science in Africa. Gurib-Fakim was on the board of the PEI on a pro-bono basis from November 2015 until March 2017.

Gurib-Fakim said on Wednesday she used a payment card issued to her by the PEI in 2016 that was identical to a bank card she already had. After informing the London-based charity she’d used their card for about $27,000 of expenses, she immediately reimbursed the institute along with other costs incurred during her mission.

No one answered the phone when Bloomberg called the PEI seeking comment from Sobrinho, and the institute didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail.

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