Lawsuit Charges Seychelles Government With Financial Piracy

Complaint Charges that Government Illegally Seized $8.5 Million from Solar Energy Company With Help From Barclays Bank and Three Irish Subcontractors

Dec 01, 2009, 11:51 ET from Dr. George Xiao

NEW YORK, Dec. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Dr. George Xiao today filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York seeking to recover $8.5 million that he alleges the Republic of Seychelles illegally seized from his solar energy company in 2008. The complaint also seeks over $30 million in consequential damages. The Seychelles Government has offered no credible explanation or formal justification for its seizure of the assets deposited in the Barclays Bank branch in Seychelles and refuses to return the money.

As set forth in the complaint, Seychelles embarked upon a course of action wherein it seized the funds without cause and only afterwards sought to "work backwards" and create a viable justification for the seizure. However, no justification exists. In the past year the Government of Seychelles has seized more than 100 bank accounts held by foreign individuals and companies.

Seychelles has been in an acute financial crisis since 2008. The International Monetary Fund has had to step in to save the country from the brink of disaster. Seychelles is also trying to renegotiate its foreign debt, and its foreign exchange reserves are depleted. Adding to its other financial woes Seychelles has recently been tied to the $10 billion Kazakh Bank scandal.

"Our complaint alleges that the Seychelles government is so desperate for money that it has resorted to what amounts to financial piracy, preying on unsuspecting foreign businesses and individuals," said Craig Weiner, an attorney at Hofheimer Gartlir & Gross, LLP, which represents Dr. Xiao and his company. "Seychelles is using unfounded and unproven allegations of fraud and money laundering as a pretext to seize the bank accounts of non-citizens with no legal or logical justification," Weiner added, summarizing the allegations made in the complaint.

"Seychelles positions itself as an offshore financial center in order to lure unsuspecting businesses and then misappropriate their funds," Weiner added, describing the complaint. "Even the U.S. State Department has warned that Seychelles officials often engage in corruption with impunity. If you are thinking of doing business in Seychelles, beware," Weiner added.

The complaint also alleges that the Seychelles Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has subcontracted its operations to three Irish nationals, Barry Galvin, Liam Hogan, and Declan Barber, each of whom is named individually as a defendant. According to the complaint, Galvin and Hogan are former members of the Irish national police force and secret police. According to the complaint, these rogue subcontractors have no background in banking or financial matters and reportedly receive substantial commissions based on the amount of funds they seize.

The complaint further alleges that Hogan and Barber have committed perjury and have brazenly and routinely ignored court orders. "Anyone who has been convicted of a crime in Ireland on the strength of their testimony should consider petitioning the court for a new trial," Weiner said.

In December 2008, Dr. Xiao sought to establish a bank account for his company at Barclays Bank in Seychelles in order to receive wire transfers from a client in Asia. According to the complaint filed today, Barclays repeatedly delayed opening the account and failed to provide the necessary account documents and information. It turned out that at the same time, Barclays was working with the FIU to plan the seizure of the funds.

When the account was finally opened, Barclays and Seychelles officials immediately seized the assets. Neither Barclays nor the FIU has ever provided Dr. Xiao with a copy of FIU's formal justification for seizing the company's assets. The complaint also alleges that Barclays and Seychelles officials in 2009 engaged in a fraudulent scheme to seize additional deposits made by Dr. Xiao's company.

An article in a local Seychelles newspaper severely criticized both Barclays and the Seychelles government for what it called "incompetence, a lack of understanding of normal banking procedures and protocol, and extreme arrogance and impunity in the application of the law."

A copy of the complaint is available upon request. The case number is 09-9845.

About the Republic of Seychelles

The Republic of Seychelles is comprised of 115 islands located approximately 950 miles off the coast of Kenya. Dependent on tourism and fishing for revenue, the Seychelles government is increasingly promoting the country as an offshore business haven. In October 2008, facing the near-depletion of official foreign exchange reserves, Seychelles defaulted on its foreign debt payments, requiring the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to step in and help save the country from bankruptcy.

About Dr. George Xiao

Dr. George Xiao markets and sells proprietary technology used in solar energy production. He is a leading expert in the commercialization of process technology to the solar industry. Dr. Xiao works with a technical team comprised of experts in process design, polysilicon plant integration, plant commissioning and foundational work.

SOURCE Dr. George Xiao