Jailed former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb claimed Sunday that he entered into a confession agreement regarding the embezzlement of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), after the state agreed to send him abroad for medical treatment.
The former vice president faces seven charges over the MMPRC scandal, which cost the state over USD 3.3 billion in embezzled funds. Adeeb, who was Minister of Tourism at the time, is charged with two counts of embezzlement, two counts of money laundering, as well as exerting influence for illicit gains, exerting influence to earn illicit gains for another party, and abusing his official position.
Adeeb had signed a confession agreement with the state, as well as another contract agreeing to provide cooperation in the MMPRC corruption case.
In response to the judge's questions regarding the agreements at the virtual hearing held at the Criminal Court early Sunday, the prosecution stated that Adeeb had wanted to enter into a cooperation agreement. They said that the confession agreement was drawn up later in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code, and the charges against Adeeb were levied under this contract.
However, Adeeb declared that he signed the agreement in order to attain permission to go abroad for medical treatment due to his sickness at the time of his incarceration. According to Adeeb, then-Prosecutor General Aishath Bisham, along with some senior police officers, had met with him.
"They told me I could go for treatment after signing the agreement. They were the ones who drew up the contract; I wouldn't have known how to", said Adeeb, adding that he had been prepared to cooperate.
The former vice president went on to say that he signed the contract while his lawyers were noting procedural issues with the agreement.
"I told [my lawyers] that I needed medical treatment more and thus, not to take further issue", he said.
Adeeb added that although the initial MMPRC investigation was finished, the reinvestigation proceedings were unclear to him. However, he did not outright deny his charges.
During the hearing, Judge Ismail Rasheed raised questions regarding the legality of the Prosecutor General's Office entering into contract with a detainee of Maldives Correctional Service, with a condition to permit overseas travel for medical treatment.
The state replied that as the Prosecutor General holds the responsibility of ensuring the rights and independence of citizens, there were no obstructions to entering into such a contract.
Adeeb retaliated saying that he had been denied medical treatment abroad in violation of the Prisons and Parole Act, which state that such must be provided to a detainee following doctors' counsel. He declared that his right was withheld even after he took the matter to court.
However, the prosecution stated that the confession agreement was signed after Adeeb returned from overseas. They also highlighted that such agreements did not obstruct defendants from their right to deny charges.
The judge further enquired into the Maabinhuraa case, which was mentioned in the agreement. In 2016, Adheeb was convicted and sentenced to eight years over the embezzlement of USD 5 million (MVR 77 million) collected as the acquisition cost of leasing Maabinhuraa, Lhaviyani Atoll, for tourism development. However, the High Court had overturned this verdict in May 2019, and the appeal at the Supreme Court was dropped last November.
The state explained that the Maabinhuraa appeal was withdrawn from the Supreme Court under their agreement with Adeeb. They also said that presently, the state was levying a joint charge encompassing all of the islands and transactions involved in the MMPRC case, instead of separate charges for every island.
Concluding the virtual hearing, Judge Ismail Rasheed stated that Sunday's hearing was held to clear up doubts over procedural issues. He said that a decision will be reached on those in the next hearing.
Ahmed Adeeb was initially sentenced to 33 years in jail over his involvement in the MMPRC graft, for orchestrating an assassination attempt on former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, and weapons possession. However, Adeeb's charges were later dropped following the change of administration in November 2019.