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Mauritius threatens to prosecute Pobjoy family over release of BIOT coins

Started by eurocoin, February 10, 2022, 08:38:38 PM

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Mauritius warns UK firm over 'Nemo' coins in Chagos Islands dispute

Surrey-based Pobjoy Mint accused of violating international law by producing fish-decorated currency.

The directors of a British firm producing tropical fish-themed coins for the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) are being threatened with prosecution by Mauritius as the net tightens around the UK's claim to sovereignty over the Chagos Islands. The family-owned Pobjoy Mint, based in Kingswood, Surrey, has received a formal letter from Mauritius's attorney general, Maneesh Gobin, telling its owners they are violating international law by manufacturing the currency without the correct legal permission.

The colourful coins, dated 2021, display native aquatic species and bear the Queen's head on the obverse. They are legal tender on BIOT, struck under licence from the UK government. One of the 50p pieces features an orange and white Chagos anemonefish - as popularised in the film Finding Nemo.

The problem for the mint is that the United Nations' highest court, the international court of justice, ruled in 2019 that the UK unlawfully detached the Chagos Islands from Mauritius before it gained its independence, and must return them.

The Mauritian attorney general's letter points out that the "issuing of currency is ... an exercise of sovereign rights". By doing so for BIOT, it states, the mint is "assisting in a serious violation of international law" and breaching the criminal code of Mauritius. The maximum penalties for such an offence in Mauritius are fines of up to 5 million rupees (£84,000) and a prison term "not exceeding 10 years". There is no extradition treaty between the UK and Mauritius. The Pobjoy Mint has been contacted for comment.

The legal move comes after a similar initiative by Mauritus at the UN's Universal Postal Union last year. The UPU recognised the validity of international court rulings against the UK and recommended that its 192 member countries "cease the registration, distribution and forwarding of any and all postage stamps issued by the territory formerly known as the 'British Indian Ocean Territory'".

As well as providing decorations for coins, the abundant natural life in the surrounding seas could bring great potential riches for the islands through either eco-tourism or intensive commercial fishing.

In 2010, the UK government created a marine protected area (MPA) around the archipelago banning all catches. The Mauritian government is drafting a similar MPA regulation for when it eventually takes control of BIOT. It is expected to permit returned Chagossians to take fish for their own subsistence. This week's expedition by the Bleu De Nîmes, a converted former British minesweeper, is the first organised by Mauritius into the waters of the disputed archipelago.



It will be interesting to see what Pobjoy Mint is going to do. Although the mint has nothing to fear of the British government, it may find itself in trouble if its directors were indeed to be prosecuted. Also as for example one of Pobjoy Mint's directors lives in a country that does have an extradition treaty with Mauritius. All of the trouble may not be worth it, certainly as they have several other issuers to choose from. It would be a pity if no further coins of the British Indian Ocean Territory were to be issued anymore though. Following the decision of the Universal Postal Union of August last year, that no post authority may still process stamps of the British Indian Ocean Territory, no new stamps have been issued.


Yes, it would be a pity if no further BIOT coins issued... but to be honest, it was little too much during the last 2 years: 6x Fish 50p, 10x 2£ Queen Beats, 50p Christmas coins (coloured and not, in both 2020 & 2021), 2x 50p Queen's 95th Birthday, 50p ship series, 50p Nightingale...

Just read that Mauritius replaced the British flag by their own flag on Chagos so it looks like return to Mauritius became a fact, not only declaration.