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Prosecutor charges State Minister of Tourism over abuse of power

Ahmed Aiham
16 July 2020, MVT 19:19
Minister of State for Tourism Dr Ahmed Solih's legal team requested witness testimonials from various Cabinet Ministers on the Cabinet's 'Economic Council'. PHOTO: VARIOUS / MIHAARU
Ahmed Aiham
16 July 2020, MVT 19:19

State prosecutors on Thursday, raised charges against Minister of State for Tourism Dr Ahmed Solih, over allegations of abuse of power, at the Criminal Court.

Implicated in the MVR 1.3 billion graft of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), the now-suspended Dr Solih had served at the Ministry for well over 25 years.

According to the prosecution, he allegedly abused his authority regarding the contract leasing of an island under investigation by the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery, as well as additional three lagoons.

Per the state, Dr Solih had presented false information to investors, stating that no investigations were ongoing over the locations. However, prosecution maintains that the ministry was given explicit instructions to refrain from transferring the head lease of the properties to any other parties.

During the hearing held Wednesday, Dr Solih's lawyer Abdulla Shair, noted that the charges were unclear, raising questions whether the charges were filed over Dr Solih greenlighting the head lease change or otherwise.

In response, state prosecutors noted that Dr Solih had, while fully aware of the instructions given by the presidential commission, deceitfully communicated with interested parties and had agreed to sublease an additional lagoon under state ownership.

Referring to the penal code, the lawyer questioned as to how, under the context of the charges, Dr Solih had used his authority as a public official for the purpose of obtaining a benefit for himself or for another person.

Prosecutors noted that Dr Solih's decision to sublease the properties, while completely aware of the ongoing investigations and instructions by the state, can be considered to have ill intentions.

Cabinet speaks to the defence of Dr Solih

Following Shair's refutation of the charges against the state minister, the state presented several documents and brought forth two ministry employees to provide testimony supporting the accusations.

Dr Solih's defence also named the former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed, Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail, Minister of Finance Ibrahim Ameer, Minister of Housing and National Planning Mohamed Aslam, Minister of Transport Aishath Nahula and Minister for Communication, Science and Technology Maleeh Jamaal, as well as the Minister at the President's Office Ali Shiyam.

Moreover, Dr Solih's legal team submitted various correspondences, including exchanges between the state minister and the presidential commission's President Ahmed Assad, to the court.

Prosecutors then claimed that evidence could be submitted without stating the purpose, to which Shair had noted that the named witnesses were members of the Cabinet's 'Economic Council', named in order to prove Dr Solih's innocence.

Presiding over the case, Criminal Court Judge Ibrahim Ali affirmed that the case could be pursued, urging both prosecutors and defendant to submit evidence to support their claims.

Although witnesses were named, Judge Ibrahim Ali said that the court would decide on the summons at a later date.

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