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President's Office spokesperson speaks out over USD1.5 mn controversy

03 October 2018, MVT 16:27
President's Office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali speaks at the Hithaanee Festival organised by Sadaqat Foundation in Hulhumale. PHOTO/MDA
03 October 2018, MVT 16:27

President’s Office's spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz stated Wednesday that only the governor of Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA), Ahmed Naseer, should declare whether Muaz's recent claim that the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) had withdrawn a case against incumbent President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom from the police, was false or not.

Muaz's rebuttal comes amidst the controversy sparked after he proclaimed on Tuesday that a letter filed by FIU at the police, regarding MVR 22.5 million that was deposited in a private bank account of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom just ahead of the presidential election, was later withdrawn by MMA.

However, FIU which is an independent agency of MMA tasked with analysing information concerning money laundering activities and suspicious activity from commercial banks, had issued a statement later the same day, declaring that it has not withdrawn any reports filed by the unit, thus falsifying the claims of Muaz.

The President's Office's spokesperson subsequently came under fire, with people accusing him of lying to defend the president.

Responding to the controversy, Muaz stated on Wednesday that his defence of the president was based on the phone call President Yameen made to the governor after media reports surfaced of the issue.

Noting that the governor himself had assured President Yameen that the contents of the letter FIU sent to the police did not implicate the president and, thus, the letter has been withdrawn by MMA, Muaz said, "So if what I said were untrue, it should be MMA's governor who should come forth and say so."

Muaz went on to remark that he was not surprised that FIU had issued a statement to the media by a spokesperson. Saying that the statement was structured to imply that the spokesperson knew the details of the case, Muaz accused that external influence had been involved.

“So far, MMA’s governor has not denied any of my claims."

The case in question regards MVR 22.5 million deposited in President Yameen's private account in Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB), just days before the Presidential Election held on September 23. FIU had submitted the letter regarding the case to the police before the election, requesting an investigation.

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has since claimed that the president received such a huge sum of money as funds for the presidential campaign. While the General Elections Act states that candidates are to keep separate bank accounts for election-related expenses, neither President Yameen nor PPM had previously stated that the account in MIB was created for election purposes.

Meanwhile, amidst media reports of this issue, MMA also released a statement via spokesperson Mohamed Nasih, stating that FIU alone is responsible for carrying out its mandate and making related decisions, as per the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism Act.

"Hence, any reports sent by FIU to the authorities come directly from the unit. This authority [MMA] does not play any part in it," said MMA.

Muaz has since filed a report at the police over death threats he has received on social media regarding this incident.

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