Former President Abdulla Yameen's lawyers said on Wednesday that the Criminal Court's ruling ordering Yameen to pay MVR 52 million (USD 3.4 million) to the Maldivian state in relation to the charges levied against him over the Vaavu atoll Aarah corruption case, was made against the law.
Yameen was found guilty of accepting a bribe over the leasing of Aarah, and using the bribe for money laundering. In addition to being sentenced to 11 years in prison, he was also fined MVR 52 million, which was the amount of money he used in his money laundering scheme in this case; he is required to pay it back to the state within six months. This ruling was made in February of this year while Yameen was imprisoned on December 25, 2022.
During the High Court hearing on Wednesday, after an appeal was filed on Yameen's behalf, his lawyers said that an order could be issued to confiscate the property acquired by a crime under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. However, the order to repay the state was issued after the verdict was made, which was illegal, his lawyers claimed.
The defence team said that anything that was not issued at the time of the verdict due to forgetfulness or for any other reason can only be raised during the appeal process. They further mentioned that this decision was issued by the Criminal Court only after Yameen filed an appeal against his conviction.
Yameen's counsel sought to overturn the order stating that he must repay the state MVR 52 million, and that any profit made through unlawful actions could only be ordered to be repaid when the original verdict was issued.
Furthermore, they also asked the court for a declaration indicating that no action enforcing repayment of the money Yameen owes the court should be initiated until a verdict on the conviction is reached.
In response, the state contended that the proceeds of crime should not always be recovered from trial court judgements. Even after the verdict, the state can be instructed to collect such funds, and there is no legal prohibition against doing so.
According to the state, the manner in which Yameen's case was dealt with was not wrong considering the purpose of the debate, which is that additional money should not be collected by the state after the original verdict has been made. They said that even if such an order were made to compensate for procedural lapses, it would not affect Yameen's prison sentence.
The state said the apex court had earlier held that certain procedural lapses do not affect the entire judgement and therefore could be corrected later. The state argued that the entire verdict will be affected only by procedural wrongs related to a fundamental right.
According to the state, when such errors are made, the procedure to be followed is to take action against the negligent party. Therefore, the state sought to uphold the order against Yameen to pay the amount.
An additional hearing is to be held regarding this case.
The High Court bench hearing the case includes Justice Mohamed Faisal, Justice Hassan Shafiu and Justice Dheebanaz Fahmy. The bench is headed by Justice Faisal.