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Ex-FIU head files case against MMA governor over undue influence

Mariyam Malsa
11 July 2019, MVT 15:31
PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/ MIHAARU
Mariyam Malsa
11 July 2019, MVT 15:31

The former head of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Abdulla Ashraf, lodged a case at the Parliamentary Committee for Public Finance against Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA)'s Governor Ahmed Naseer over exerting undue influence into FIU investigations and interfering with attempts to file cases at the police.

FIU was established under the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Act and is tasked with analysing information concerning money laundering activities as well as suspicious activity from commercial banks. As FIU is an independent agency of MMA, the central bank's governor has no legal authority to influence its investigations.

As per Ashraf's letter, Naseer attempted to prevent FIU from filing money laundering cases concerning former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

In September 2018, Ashraf concluded that large cash inflows to Yameen's bank account constituted an effort to launder money and filed a police case.

Although Ashraf was abruptly fired after he lodged the case, MMA maintains that Ashraf was dismissed as a result of changes to the management framework.

Local media outlet Mihaaru received a copy of Ashraf's letter six days before it was sent to the parliament. The letter provided details on how Governor Naseer allegedly influenced FIU's operations.

Although Naseer has yet to publicly respond to the claims made in Ashraf's letter or respond to questions posed by media, he spoke regarding the matter at the Parliamentary Committee for Public Finance.

The letter stated that Governor Naseer disapproved of FIU notifying former Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)'s president Hassan Luthfee regarding the deposit of USD 1 million into the Escrow account jointly owned by ACC and Yameen. Ashraf stated that Naseer wanted FIU to inform ACC in speech as opposed to stipulations in FIU regulations.

Although the transaction into Yameen's account occurred in June 2018, FIU only discovered it in September.

Yameen's violation of the agreement with ACC was also uncovered by FIU's report.

SOF, a private company implicated in the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Company (MMPRC) corruption scandal, transferred USD 1 million was transferred to Yameen's account at Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB).

Yameen had assented to transfer the aforementioned sum to the escrow account. However, it was discovered that the USD 1 million deposited to the escrow account was not the amount SOF transferred to the former president.

The MVR 22 million transferred to Yameen

FIU submitted a case to the police upon receiving reports from MIB on September 13, 2018, that MVR 22.5 million was transferred to Yameen's account.

In Ashraf's letter, it was stated that Naseer had made a personal Whatsapp call to Ashraf and expressed his dissatisfaction that the matter was reported without his consultation.

The letter also stated that Naseer met him after the transaction of MVR 22.5 million was reported and spoke of 'political' concerns. This included an assertion that the government interpreted the act of reporting the matter as Naseer attempting to inconvenience the government.

However, the law does not necessitate FIU to discuss such matters with the MMA governor.

Despite reporting transactions of MVR 10 million and MVR 12.5 million conducted on September 5 and September 10 respectively, the police did not conduct any investigations at the time. Yameen's investigation and subsequent trial only commenced after the change in government.

Ashraf's allegations against the MMA Governor

- Issuing an order to delay reporting high profile cases until the end of the presidential election.

- Stating that submitting Yameen's case ahead of the presidential election was inappropriate concerning circumstances.

- Stating that the government pressured him to resign when the cases were submitted.

- Asserting that the necessity of demonstrating to Yameen that MMA was under the governor's authority.

As per the letter, Naseer stated that he was not afraid of losing his job but was afraid of being imprisoned due to the potential ordeal his family would face.

In his letter, Ashraf stated that he did not believe that his dismissal was the result of management changes. Ashraf alleged that Naseer misused his authority as governor concerning the matter.

Ashraf also highlighted that the governor's rhetoric regarding the reasons for his dismissal varied.

The governor reportedly informed high ranking MMA officials that Ashraf was dismissed to ensure his protection. However, the remaining employees were told that Ashraf was incapable of carrying out his duties.

Ashraf has filed cases with the police over Naseer influencing FIU investigations and ordering FIU to delay the submission of high profile cases until the conclusion of the presidential election. The former FIU head has also presented the matter of his dismissal to the President's Office.

Overall, Ashraf's letter requested the parliament to take any necessary steps against Naseer.

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