The High Court, on Tuesday, concluded hearings on former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's appeal case regarding the Criminal Court's money laundering charges.
In December 2019, the Criminal Court sentenced Yameen to five years in prison and a fine of USD 5 million over the embezzlement of MVR 3.4 billion from Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).
Following Tuesday's final hearing, the judge bench announced that a verdict would be issued shortly.
The bench overseeing Yameen's case consisted of Judge Mohamed Niyaz, Judge Hussain Mazeed and Judge Hussain Shaheed.
Speaking at the High Court, the former president stated that there was no substantial proof that he had acquired illicit gains from the leasing of Vodamula island in Gaaf Alif Atoll.
He noted that the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) had not raised any allegations on the matter and that SOF's former Managing Director Ahlam Latheef did not mention any transactions connected to Vodamula in his statement.
Yameen went on to state that the claims were only based on the testimony of former Vice President Ahmed Adeed and former MMPRC Managing Director Abdulla Ziyath, neither of whom could be considered reliable witnesses.
Asserting that he had only sought to collect payments related to political work from Adeeb, the former president expressed that it was 'scarcely believable' to claim that he would strike a corrupt deal with the ex-Vice President, while the latter was under investigation for orchestrating an attempt on his life with the 2015 explosion aboard the 'Finifenma' presidential speedboat.
Responding to a question posed by Judge Mohamed Niyaz regarding the identity of the benefactors who supplied the funds for political activities, Yameen stated that all such payments were collected by Adeeb and former Fisheries Minister Mohamed Shainee.
Yameen's lawyer and former Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel stated that over USD 900,000 of Yameen's funds were already in the SOF account at the time lease payments of Vodamula were transferred. He went on to clarify that these funds were deposited after receiving clearance from the state's financial institutions and that Yameen, subsequently, had no way of knowing that the later transfers were illicit gains.
Jameel also highlighted that the the Maldives Police Service did not question the former president before pressing charges. He asserted that the action violated the Criminal Procedure Code, citing regulations which stipulate that such investigations must be conducted with ACC participation.
Reiterating that Adeeb and Ziyath were not reliable witnesses, Jameel stated that the Criminal Court had referred to their testimony in violation of previous Supreme Court decisions concerning the statements.
According to Jameel, if the High Court maintained the Criminal Court's verdict, the ruling would undermine regulations on accepting statements from witnesses and pave the way for individuals to be unjustly jailed under the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Act.
In its response to Yameen's assertions, the state clarified that the former president had not denied accepting cash transactions from Adeeb, despite provisions in the money laundering act which prohibit business dealings between presidents and vice presidents.
Referring to Yameen's claims that he sought to acquire funds in connection to political matters, the state noted that the transfers were conducted during a time period in which no elections were scheduled, raising doubt on the former president's decision to invest large sums at such a juncture.
Overall, the state requested the High Court bench to rule in favour of the Criminal Court's verdict, asserting that the circumstances raised cause for suspicion as per money laundering regulations, while testimony from Adeeb and Ziyath corroborated the aforementioned suspicions.