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Criminal Court drops all charges against ex-VP Adeeb

Shahudha Mohamed
14 July 2020, MVT 11:03
Former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb. Criminal Cout dropped all charges against him on July 14. PHOTO: MIHAARU
Shahudha Mohamed
14 July 2020, MVT 11:03

Former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb walked free on Tuesday, after the Criminal Court dropped all charges pressed against him by the state.

The state pressed a total of seven charges against Adeeb over Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC)'s embezzlement scandal, worth over MVR 1.3 billion.

Adeeb, who was the Minister of Tourism at the time, was 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.

In July 2020, Adeeb entered a confessional agreement with the state regarding the aforementioned charges.

However, during the last hearing held at Criminal Court, 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 and offered him the guarantee to fly abroad.

"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.

Slate wiped clean

During Tuesday's hearing, the Criminal Court decided that there was no room to pursue the charges against Adeeb, citing that the state had "wrongfully" entered a confessional agreement with Adeeb.

Judge Ismail Rasheed asserted that every detainee had the right to medical care and it was the state's responsibility to provide treatment for inmates.

Noting that the state does not have the power to demand a confession for certain crimes in return for medical treatment, Judge Ismail highlighted that doing so can be considered an act of torture.

Determining that the state forced the confession out of Adeeb, the judge questioned the legitimacy of the confessional agreement and added that the constitution forbids courts from accepting such statements.

Furthermore, the judge described the actions of former PG and senior police officers as "questionable", noting that providing medical treatment for detainees fell on Maldives Correctional Service and the Minister of Home Affairs.

The judge also pointed out that neither the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) nor the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery was involved in the agreement signing.

Therefore, he stated that the PG Bisham had exerted powers that were not granted to her by the law.

The judge also stated that there was no guarantee that police re-investigated the MMPRC case exempt from influence, as the same officers who participated in the initial investigation were also involved in the latter investigation.

Noting that the state had formerly signed an agreement with Adeeb to guarantee his cooperation in the probe into the MMPRC graft, Judge Ismail stated that the Criminal Procedure Code does not grant the state with the powers to construct such an agreement.

Moreover, the judge asserted that the state pressed charges after the statute of limitations listed in the Criminal Procedure Code had passed.

Taking the aforementioned fact into account, and adding that Adeeb was charged over an invalid confessional statement, the judge annulled all the charges against the ex-VP.

With this development, Adeeb, who was confined to house arrest until the conclusion of his trial, is now a free man. There are currently no ongoing cases against Adeeb at any courts.

In 2016, during former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's administration, Adeeb was sentenced to 33 years in jail over his involvement in the MMPRC graft, for orchestrating an assassination attempt on President Yameen, and weapons possession.

However, Adeeb's charges were later dropped following the change of administration in November 2019.

What happens next?

In response to the Criminal Court's decision, the state argued that the confessional agreement and the cooperative agreement were both signed with Adeeb's consent, adding that it is allowed.

However, Adeeb's lawyer objected, noting that the state was repeating former statements.

The court sustained the objection and emphasised that the state will not be given the opportunity to reiterate old declarations.

Adding that the court had reached a decision on the confessional agreement after questioning and considering the perspective of both the plaintiff and defendant, Judge Ismail advised the state to follow the due procedure if the court's conclusion was unsatisfactory.

Half a decade of investigations, only one conviction

Although the court wiped away all charges against Adeeb, police state that former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb masterminded the MMPRC fraud, with the assistance of MMPRC's former Managing Director Abdulla Ziyath.

While Adeeb walks free, Ziyath is still under house arrest.

Reports released by investigative bodies last October list 267 individuals amongst those who benefitted from the largest corruption scandal recorded in the history of Maldives.

The million-dollar embezzlement case is being investigated by police, in collaboration with the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery, and the Prosecutor General's (PG) Office.

Investigations into the MMPRC scandal commenced in 2015, and several cases were forwarded to the Prosecutor General's Office last year for indictment.

Explaining the delay, Commissioner of Police (CP) Mohamed Hameed stated that many powerful and influential individuals belonging to the current and past administrations are involved in the graft, but added that the investigation will not turn a blind eye to certain culprits.

Out of those heavily accused of their involvement in embezzling the MMPRC state funds, only former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom is serving jail time.

Yameen was convicted of money laundering over a transaction that involved a deposit of USD 1 million by SOF Pvt Ltd, to his personal account at Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB).

The Criminal Court sentenced the ex-president to five years of imprisonment and imposed a fine of USD 5 million over the money laundering charges.