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Joint investigative team to tackle MMPRC corruption case

Fathmath Shaahunaz
14 July 2019, MVT 17:16
Assistant Commissioner of Police Mohamed Riyaz speaks at a meeting of the parliamentary Committee on Public Finance on July 14, 2019. PHOTO/MAJLIS
Fathmath Shaahunaz
14 July 2019, MVT 17:16

Maldives Police Service, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery are working to form a joint investigative team to tackle the graft case of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), revealed Assistant Commissioner of Police Mohamed Riyaz on Sunday.

Speaking at a sit-down with the parliamentary Committee on Public Finance regarding the progress of investigations into cases of corruption lodged against former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's administration, Riyaz shared that the three parties were already exchanging relevant information and technical expertise, although they are yet to officially form the joint team.

"After the Criminal Procedure Code came into effect, we've been working on the necessary documentation to establish a joint investigative team. Hopefully we can sign the MoU by the end of this week", he said.

He noted that the police were sharing information with the presidential commission related to corruption cases under investigation. In turn, he stated that the commission also extended technical assessments and findings to the police for the latter's interrogations.

During a meeting of the parliamentary Committee on Public Finance on July 14, 2019. PHOTO/MAJLIS

Riyaz, who heads the Crime Investigation Command, stated that the MMPRC corruption case, where MVR 1.3 billion in state funds were embezzled via island and lagoon lease for tourism purposes with the involvement of MMPRC's then-Managing Director Abdulla Ziyath, was filed at the police on October 17, 2015.

Although he asserted that the police had made arrests, conducted raids and inspections, and collected evidence during the ensuing investigations, he did not disclose further details as the committee meeting was open to the media. He noted that several investigations and trials related to the MMPRC scandal were still underway, and declined to answer questions that concerned the personal interests of individuals connected to the case.

However, he did not object to the proposal of sharing the information with the parliamentary committee during a closed sitting. Former police commissioner and incumbent Thimarafushi MP Abdulla Riyaz suggested continuing the session behind closed doors, and the meeting concluded with the decision to hold another meeting with the police in a closed sitting.

According to the information divulged during Sunday's meeting, the police concluded cases related to 49 islands in 2015, and 21 cases in 2016, which were forwarded to the Prosecutor General's Office.

Riyaz further noted that their investigations focussed only the embezzlement of state funds from MMPRC, and that the institution has been sharing its findings from the probe with ACC.

The graft watchdog's detailed report on the MMPRC scandal stated that ACC received cases pertaining to 57 islands leased for tourism development. The report disclosed that out of USD 77.5 million owed to the state as acquisition costs of the leased islands and lagoons, only USD 12.5 million entered MMPRC.

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