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ACC publicizes report on MMPRC embezzlement case

Nafaahath Ibrahim
14 February 2019, MVT 11:22
Security forces situated outside the office of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation following the uncovering of the scandal and the investigation that led afterwards. PHOTO: MIHAARU FILE PHOTOS
Nafaahath Ibrahim
14 February 2019, MVT 11:22

Anti-Corruption Commission on Thursday publicized a detailed report on the infamous MVR 1.3 billion corruption scandal of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation.

The over 700-page report details illegally leased islands and the entities to which these islands were leased to. It also details what happened to the acquisition costs and the accounts to which the funds were deposited.

The biggest investigation by ACC conducted by 36 investigators commenced on October 27, 2015. Upon completion, the findings were sent to Prosecutor General's Office on August 10, 2017.

For this case, 118 people's statements were taken, which took over 700 hours. Over 28,448 banks statements of 163 people were investigated.

Additionally, 5,681 documents were investigated and analyzed.

Received only 12 out of 77 million dollars!

ACC's investigative report tackled the leasing of 57 islands.

According to the report, a staggering amount of the money acquired via leasing of islands and lagoons for tourism were embezzled. MMPRC had only received USD 12.5 million from the USD 77.5 million earned from acquisition costs. However, large fractions of the USD 12.5 million were given to private companies SOF Pvt Ltd and Millennium Capital.

In addition to dollars, SOF had received MVR 127 million from MMPRC's Maldivian Rufiyaa account.

Furthermore, MMPRC received payments greater than the required amounts as acquisition costs for some of the islands and lagoons.

The report exposes the identities and details of politicians and businesses that received the embezzled MMPRC funds.

Bulk of funds to SOF

Former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and former MMPRC Managing Director Abdullah Ziyath had used SOF to embezzle the funds.

As per the report, "... funds taken as acquisition costs for those islands were transferred to private company account SOF Pvt Ltd instead of state accounts.."

ACC alleges that there was involvement of some of Bank of Maldives (BML) staff in the transfer of funds, as USD 22.1 million was sent to SOF's account instead of MMPRC accounts.

The report speculates that BML staff might have transferred the funds as Ziyath had endorsed the cheques. ACC stated that the case of BML staff will be investigated as a separate case.

According to the regulations passed by MMPRC board, cheques cannot be endorsed with only Ziyath's approval since a signature of another one of MMPRC's four leaders is also required.

Falsified receipts, bank accounts empty

As per the report, the former MMPRC MD had falsified documents stating that acquisition costs for some of the leased islands were paid. However, it was uncoverd that the fees were not deposited to MMPRC's accounts.

One such island is Heenfaru, Alif Dhaalu Atoll, leased to THS Pvt Ltd. Although receipts claim USD 150,000 was paid to MMPRC, the money was not received.

Another such case was a lagoon in Kaafu Atoll leased to SeaHouse Resort Pvt Ltd. Acquisition costs for this lagoon amount to USD 1.5 million. Although there is a cheque from a company called CICO Pvt Ltd which show that the funds were deposited to BML, the ACC report show that it was a falsified cheque.

The report states that ".. it was noted that CICO Pvt Ltd did not have such a balance in their account."