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Authorities question former AG over MMPRC scandal

Shahudha Mohamed
27 October 2019, MVT 14:12
Former Attorney General Mohamed Anil. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/ MIHAARU
Shahudha Mohamed
27 October 2019, MVT 14:12

Investigative authorities decided to question former Attorney General (AG) Mohamed Anil, who claimed to have no knowledge of the embezzlement scandal of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) during Anti Corruption Commission (ACC)'s probe.

Anil was filling the position of Attorney General during former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's administration when islands and lagoons were leased to various parties through corruption and abuse of power, costing the state losses over MVR 3.3 billion.

The former AG was questioned by ACC during the corruption watchdog's probe into the matter. However, the final report publicised by the commission did not contain any of Anil's statements.

Although a former ACC member stated that this was because "the investigation did not uncover any documents that the Attorney General gave counsel on leasing the islands", the joint investigation currently being carried out by ACC, Maldives Police Service and the presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery is looking into a case of Anil having given consultation on leasing islands.

The aforementioned authorities confirmed during a press conference held on October 24 that Anil was under investigation over providing counsel in the MMPRC scandal.

President of Asset Recovery Commission Ahmed Assad stated that Anil's counsel was forwarded to the current Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath to confirm the authenticity of his claims.

According to local media Mihaaru, Anil advised to continue leasing islands against the fifth clause of the Tourism Act to prevent any losses to the state.

The 100 percent state-run MMPRC was established in former President Mohamed Nasheed's administration with the sole purpose of promoting and marketing Maldivian tourism internationally.

MMPRC's mandate was altered in 2014 during Yameen's tenure to lease islands for tourism purposes following discussions, as per statements given to ACC's probe by former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb.

MMPRC violated the agreement it had with Ministry of Tourism by leasing islands without any involvement in the development of the island.

Speaking at a press conference held on July 1, 2016, Anil argued that islands could be leased off in a bidding process if the state took part in it as well, although the law requires any leasing to be opened publicly, noting that the law is not followed in most occasions.

Referring to some former deals, Anil stated that some islands were leased off under the JV model since 2005, including the islands leased over to Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) and islands leased in 2008 for the development of the tourism sector.

Other allegations against Anil include making a statement that handing over the fees of the MMPRC dealings to Adeeb was not an issue.

This allegation was raised against Anil by MMPRC's former Managing Director Abdulla Ziyath while presenting his testimony in the trial against ex-President Yameen over money laundering charges.

While replying to Yameen's question regarding what the AG's advice was for the situation, ZIyath stated that Anil had green-lighted handing over the cheques of MMPRC dealings to Adeeb as it was a direct order from Yameen.

Ziyath further clarified that this statement was made verbally in a meeting and was not documented in writing.

Anil had formerly claimed to have no knowledge of the MMPRC embezzlement, although he was one of the few individuals that had fingerprint access to Ziyath's office at MMPRC.

ACC's report included details of the accounts that received the embezzled funds, the room where the discussions for the scandal took place, and the list of people who had access to this room.

Investigative authorities assured on October 24 that they will not drop any inquiries against any suspects being questioned over the MMPRC case. While 270 individuals have been singled out during the investigation, authorities stated that those who were negligent in positions of power will also be probed.

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