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PG Shameem denies conflict of interest in MMPRC graft investigation

Mariyam Malsa
20 July 2020, MVT 18:15
Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem. FILE PHOTO / MIHAARU
Mariyam Malsa
20 July 2020, MVT 18:15

Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem, on Monday, denied allegations of conflict of interest concerning the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).

The assertion was made in response to a complaint submitted to the Bar Council, stating that Shameem had not withdrawn from investigations concerning former MMPRC Managing Director Abdulla Ziyath and close aide of ex-VP Ahmed Adeeb Mohamed Hussain, despite having legally represented both individuals prior to assuming office.

Speaking to local media outlet Mihaaru, Shameem denied all allegations, maintaining, that he had ended his involvement with the cases upon his appointment as PG.

Lodged by an unnamed citizen, the complaint highlighted that Shameem served as former MMPRC head Ziyath's lawyer from May 2019 until his appointment as PG (on December 8, 2019), including representing Ziyath during the appeal filed at the High Court seeking to overturn the Criminal Court's detainment order.

The incumbent PG was also noted to have signed off on the plea bargain agreement submitted by Hussain concerning the latter's implication in the MMPRC corruption scandal.

Although the complaint claimed that Shameem had legally represented former vice president, the PG previously asserted that he had only represented Adeeb over allegations concerning the explosion that took place aboard the presidential speedboat "Finifenma" in September 2015.

Per regulations, if the Prosecutor General has a conflict of interest in an ongoing case, he is required to withdraw and overturn the case to the Deputy PG.

"This was all done in professional regard", assured Shameem, noting that meetings regarding the case against Ziyath and Hussain were conducted without him.

Further, he refuted claims over financial transactions during the period within which he legally represented the two individuals.

The complaint, lodged at the Bar Council, claimed that Shameem received "large amounts" of money and was aware that the sums were sourced from funds laundered through SOF in the MMPRC corruption scandal.

It also asserts that Shameem accepted payments from laundered funds, to cover a trip to the United Kingdom (UK) during which he collected Hussain's statement. The costs included return fare, a five-star hotel stay and sightseeing expenses in addition to 20,000 in legal fees.

Additionally, it suggested that while Shameem collected the payment as loans in the form of liquid assets, he was aware that the funds were illicitly sourced.

In his response, Shameem disclosed Hussain's relationship with him as being friends from childhood, declaring that as a result, the legal services he provided were pro-bono and denied that the alleged 'trip to the UK' had taken place.

The PG also stated that all payments received across his time as a practising attorney was collected via his law firm and that the office maintained a record of all financial transactions.

Overall, the complaint condemned the appointment of an individual that it alleges, "collected millions" from the former MMPRC Managing Director and other accused individuals, emphasizing on the possibility that such a designation may incur undue advantages for particular factions.

Despite acknowledging having received the complaint, the Bar Council has yet to make a decision on whether to accept and launch a probe into Shameem.

Reports released by investigative bodies last October list 267 individuals that have allegedly benefited from the largest corruption scandal recorded in the history of Maldives.

Of those named in the embezzlement of state funds via MMPRC, only former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom is presently serving jail time.