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Minister’s son under sealed indictment in US
Information on a case against the son of a senior government minister in the United States is hard to come by because the circumstances surrounding the case have been cloaked in secrecy, as authorities there are dealing with it through a sealed indictment.
A Sunday Guardian investigation has revealed the minister’s son is under house arrest in the US and is also assisting the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with investigations. Sources say US authorities have already signalled their intention to interview the minister, who they say will assist greatly in their investigations.
Since his son’s detention, local sources say, the minister has not travelled to the US. The investigations, sources say, have so far centred on money-laundering, fraud and tax evasion. The minister’s son was held in December last year when he arrived in the US. A source described it as a highly sensitive case, explaining, “Only the officers dealing with the matter are aware of what is taking place.
“Those involved are sworn to secrecy.” Under a sealed indictment, no information about the case goes public until the prosecution is satisfied that all the parties implicated and evidence to support the allegations are before the courts. The fact that the indictment is sealed means it is not even registered on a judicial database.
It also means the public does not have access to documents or information, even about such basic facts as the identities of the prosecution, judge, defendants, evidence to be led and even the charges. Though no time frame has been given for the lifting of the seal, sources say once this is done, the contents of the case will be made public.
The secrecy cloak, the source explained, is the reason why international, regional and local media outlets have been unable to unearth any information. So far, the case has taken investigators to different international jurisdictions and they have already gathered a dossier of financial statements from various countries.
In applying for the indictment to be sealed, sources say the prosecutors outlined a plethora of reasons, one of which was that several high-ranking people worldwide are implicated and investigations are ongoing. International law enforcement agencies have also discovered numerous shady transactions involving the setting up of overnight companies and offshore banking accounts.
Several calls to the minister’s cell phone and messages left were not returned. Contacted on the matter, the US Embassy said, “As a matter of long-standing policy we do not comment on, confirm or deny law-enforcement matters.” The Department of Justice in the US, in an e-mailed response to a query, wrote: “In addition to our spokesperson looking into your request, I would suggest contacting the FBI Public Affairs Office.”
When the Sunday Guardian contacted that office, we were told it was not the policy of the FBI to comment on cases.
In the US, a grand jury hears the key facts of a case to decide if there is enough evidence for someone to stand trial. If the jurors believe a trial is warranted, they issue an indictment—a formal accusation which serves as a warning to the accused that a trial will be held. Sometimes it is determined that the indictment should be kept secret.
A secret indictment is also known as a sealed indictment or silent indictment. In this case, the documentation surrounding the indictment is kept under seal, and no one involved may discuss the indictment outside of the grand jury hearings, or with anyone else once the hearings are over. Once unsealed, there is a possibility the information/evidence can be used in apprehending a bigger culprit.
When the seal is lifted, the contents of the indictment can be made public.
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