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Graft probe not sluggish, evidence collection challenging: Asset Recovery Commission

Shahudha Mohamed
21 October 2020, MVT 17:48
President of the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery Ahmed Asad. PHOTO: AHMED AWHSAN ILYAS/ MIHAARU
Shahudha Mohamed
21 October 2020, MVT 17:48

Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery, on Wednesday, asserted that the probe into the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) graft was not progressing at a sluggish rate, adding that delays were caused due to the challenges in collecting enough evidence to solidify the cases.

The Asset Recovery Commission's President Ahmed Asad made this statement at the Parliamentary Committee on Independent Bodies, over complaints that the investigation into the largest corruption scandal recorded in Maldivian history, with a potential loss of approximately MVR 4 billion in state funds, was "too slow".

In addition to the commission's members, the Parliament committee also summoned Prosecutor General (PG) Hussain Shameem and members of the Anti Corruption Corruption (ACC) for questioning over the matter.

In Wednesday's meeting, Parliament representatives expressed concern and disappointment over the relevant authorities' failure to carry out the MMPRC corruption investigation accordingly.

In response, the corruption watchdog's President Fathimath Shiuna claimed that ACC was scrutinising the case of 30 individuals involved in the case and noted that the joint-investigative team had prioritised the suspects in a particular order based on various factors.

Hussain Shameem guaranteed that the PG Office was aptly prepared, with a special team, to process any case and press charges within three to four days of receiving it, provided that sufficient evidence is presented.

Summarising the entire probe, Asad explained that the aim of the investigation was not just punishing perpetrators, but preventing a repetition of the scandal in the future.

Adding that such a probe, involving large sums of funds, presented various challenges, Asad also noted that delays were caused by the lack of cooperation from various bodies and institutions involved in the scandal, particularly Bank of Maldives (BML).

"If we forward an incomplete investigation, PG [Office] will reject it again. [We] do not want that to happen either", he stated.

Providing details from the report prepared by the Asset Recovery Commission, Asad said that resorts have been established on some of the 37 islands and 12 lagoons that were illegally leased out through MMPRC in former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's administration, while construction work is halted on some islands.

Asad highlighted the challenges in deciding a legal course of action regarding the leased islands, since several prominent figures in the tourism industry are among those developing resorts on them.

"Jobs are created, tax money is generated. These things benefit the entire economy. In a situation such as this, we have noted that a solution must be found", the Asset Recovery Commission's President asserted.

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