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SC bench questions state over freezing ex-president Yameen's accounts

Shahudha Mohamed
14 September 2020, MVT 20:26
Former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, arriving to court escorted by officers of Maldives Correctional Service. PHOTO: AHMED AWSHAN ILYAS/ MIHAARU
Shahudha Mohamed
14 September 2020, MVT 20:26

The Supreme Court's bench, on Monday, grilled the state over freezing former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's accounts during the investigation into the money laundering charges against him.

During Monday's virtual hearing on the state's appeal over the High Court's order to unfreeze Yameen's accounts, the judges' questions mainly revolved around the state's failure to submit relevant documents while requesting for the order to freeze Yameen's assets.

In March, the High Court rejected the Criminal Court's order and unfroze the ex-President's accounts, on the grounds that authorities failed to follow the Criminal Procedure Code. The state then appealed the case at the apex court.

Presiding Judge Husnu-al Suood inquired whether the state believed that seeking an order to freeze all of Yameen's assets, in a case which concerns only USD 1 million, was equitable.

The state responded that such an order can be requested as the government can confiscate laundered assets and profit generated from laundered assets under the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Act.

"Was the amount [of laundered assets] ascertained? Was the order requested with any idea [of the amount]? What homework was conducted before requesting the order?", Judge Suood asked.

A police officer involved in Yameen's investigation stated that the order was sought after the probe revealed many transactions linked to the suspected USD 1 million, as well as confirming illicit enrichment.

"Why were those points not submitted with the request for the order?", Suood further questioned.

The investigator noted that the order was requested during the early stages of the probe, and highlighted that Yameen is accused of illicit enrichment, at which point the judges intervened.

"That accusation was not submitted as a document", Suood reiterated.

Yameen addressed the allegations, stating that the police did not question him on illicit enrichment. He asserted that storing personal funds was not a crime, adding that he did political work.

Suood asked the state and police to clarify the suspected amounts and reasons backing up the illicit enrichment allegations during the next hearing.

Monday's hearing was concluded with the announcement that another hearing will be scheduled for the case. In addition to Justice Suood, the judges' bench consisted of Justice Dr Azmiralda Zahir and Justice Aisha Shujoon Mohamed.

In December 2019, the Criminal Court sentenced Yameen to five years in prison and a fine of USD 5 million over the embezzlement of MVR 3.4 billion from Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).

The appeal process of Yameen's sentence is currently ongoing at the High Court. The hearings have now reached the verdict stage.