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Ex-minister deposited USD 1 million in Yameen's account

Fathmath Shaahunaz
03 September 2019, MVT 17:06
Former President Abdulla Yameen leaves after a court hearing. PHOTO: HUSSAIN WAHEED / MIHAARU
Fathmath Shaahunaz
03 September 2019, MVT 17:06

Former Minister of Tourism Moosa Zameer on Tuesday testified in court that he deposited USD 1 million into a bank account of former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom upon the latter's request.

Zameer gave his testimony during Tuesday's hearing of Yameen's ongoing money laundering trial.

The state charged the former president with money laundering over USD 1 million that was deposited into his account at Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB) by SOF Pvt Ltd, a private company implicated in the MVR 1.3 billion embezzlement scandal of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).

While Yameen had agreed to deposit the money into an escrow account opened jointly with Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) at Bank of Maldives (BML), it later surfaced that he deposited other funds into the account. His is charged over transferring the original USD 1 million he received from SOF to a general investment account at MIB to make profit.

Testifying at the Criminal Court, Zameer stated that he sold off an asset to acquire the USD 1 million, and deposited it to an account of Yameen on his request. The former minister said he believed Yameen sought the money for personal reasons but that he had not enquired into it.

In addition to Zameer, the court took the testimony of local businessman Mohamed Waseem, who had purchased a land plot from Zameer for USD 2 million. Waseem further revealed that he took a loan of MVR 15 million from Zameer, and that he received the money in cash.

The court also heard the testimonies of BML's Deputy CEO Mohamed Shareef and Mohamed Luwaiz, the former director of BML's board, regarding the escrow account.

Shareef stated that the former president of ACC, Hassan Luthfee, had reached out to him to enquire about escrow accounts and that Shareef had shared the bank's policies with him. He emphasised that he was not involved in opening the account, but represented the bank for the transaction upon the request of BML's former CEO.

Shareef further noted that opening escrow accounts is not illegal and that such accounts already exist in the bank. He also revealed that, following the deposit into the joint escrow account, then Minister of Legal Affairs at the President's Office Azima Shakoor had requested documents of the transaction.

Giving his testimony, Luwaiz stated that Yameen had communicated with Azima regarding some of his personal transactions. However, he admitted he did not know the nature of the transactions.

The state's witness for this issue, ACC's former president Hassan Luthfee, refused to testify after he claimed that the state had coerced him into giving testimony against Azima Shakoor, who is charged with enabling money laundering and disseminating false information to a government institute.

At the hearing, the prosecution revealed that Luthfee, who is currently residing in Malaysia, refused their request to present himself at the Maldivian embassy and give testimony.

Noting that witnesses cannot be coerced to testify, the state said that Luthfee is no longer expected to be a witness in the trial.

However, they affirmed that the video footage of Luthfee's statements taken during the police investigation show no evidence of coercion in the interview. The state requested that the video footage be reviewed at the hearing.

Yameen's lawyers objected to the request, declaring that video footage was not enough to determine coercion. The defence further protested that the prosecution had not submitted the video footage as evidence prior.

Criminal Court's Chief Judge Ahmed Hailam closed Tuesday's hearing after concluding the testimonies submitted by the prosecution. The chief judge stated that they will reach a decision regarding Luthfee's interview footage in the next hearing, after which the court will hear the defence witnesses.

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