The Attorney General's Office on Wednesday finalised a bill to amend the Penal Code of Maldives, seeking to criminalise illicit enrichment and certain other forms of corruption.
The bill which was submitted to the President's Office proposes to also establish embezzlement, misappropriation or other diversion of property by a public official, trading in influence, and bribery of foreign public officials and officials of international organisations, as criminal offences in the Penal Code.
According to the AG Office, the bill also seeks to amend the existing offence of bribery of a National Public Official, in order to bring it in line with the requirements of the United Nations (UN) Convention against Corruption.
The new offences stated in the bill include:
The AG Office stated that criminalising illicit enrichment is one of the main purposes of the amendment bill. The offence refers to a significant increase in the assets of a public official which cannot be reasonably explained in relation to the individual's lawful income.
The office noted that criminalising illicit enrichment was a key electoral pledge of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's administration.
The AG Office had submitted such a bill to the parliament in December 2018 soon after the presidential elections, in accordance with the incumbent government's first 100 day pledges. However, the bill lapsed when the term of the then-parliament expired in 2019.
Any acts of embezzlement, misappropriation or other diversion of any funds or property entrusted to a public official through virtue of their position, either for their own benefit or that of a third party, would be criminalised as per the amendments.
The bill also seeks to criminalise trading in influence, or a public official’s use of their influence to obtain an undue advantage from a state authority either for themselves or a third party.
According to the AG Office, the offence encompasses the promise, offering or giving of undue advantages to a public official, and the solicitation or acceptance of such advantages by a public official.
Moreover, if approved and ratified, the bill would also criminalise the promise, offering or giving of an undue advantage, to a foreign public official or an official of an international organisation, on condition that the official acts on or refrains from exercising their official duties, in order to obtain or retain business or other undue advantage in relation to the conduct of international business.
The AG Office stated that the bill would classify these offences as Class 3 felonies with the exception of illicit enrichment committed by high-ranking public officials such as the president, cabinet ministers, lawmakers and judges, in which case the offence would constitute a Class 2 felony.
The government has filed to abolish the Law on Prevention and Prohibition of Corruption should this amendment bill to the Penal Code be ratified, as well as a bill to amend the definition of corruption in the Anti-Corruption Commission Act.