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Al Jazeera seeks govt comment over Maldives documentary

Mohamed Visham
23 August 2016, MVT 09:57
The invitation card claims that “Al Jazeera has uncovered new evidence of corruption, theft and abuse of power. The award winning investigative team reveals how a president hijacked a nation and millions of dollars were stolen”.
Mohamed Visham
23 August 2016, MVT 09:57

Al Jazeera Monday sought a government comment over the documentary which the Doha-based broadcaster claims would reveal new evidence mass corruption, theft and abuse of power in the Maldives.

Created by the Emmy and BAFTA winning Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, the documentary would be released on August 30, 2016 at the Royal Society of Arts in London.

The government had earlier said Al Jazeera had not contacted the government for a comment over the documentary.

International Spokesperson at the President's Office Ibrahim Hussain Shihab said Al Jazeera had sent an email late Monday afternoon requesting for an official government comment over the allegations.

The invitation for the release of the documentary, titled ‘Stealing Paradise’ has been opened publicly.

The invitation card claims that “Al Jazeera has uncovered new evidence of corruption, theft and abuse of power. The award winning investigative team reveals how a president hijacked a nation and millions of dollars were stolen”.

Shihab said the email had not asked for an appointment with president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and had only requested for a government comment in writing over the allegations made against the president.

"This is the first time Al Jazeera had requested for a government comment," Shihab added.

However, Mihaaru understands that Al Jazeera had emailed all government officials and state institutions implicated in the documentary for an official comment in their defence.

The hugely anticipated documentary is believed to have been made on the largest embezzlement of state funds in the history of the tiny island nation which has been heavily linked to president Yameen.

An official audit report had revealed that over USD79 million had been embezzled through the state tourism promotion company.

Maldives Media and PR Corporation (MMPRC) had mediated the leasing of over 59 different tourist hotels, resorts and yacht marinas out of which 53 had been leased through an agreement with the tourism ministry.

The funds received by MMPRC was distributed through a private company.

ACC had also questioned former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor over the transfer of funds linked to MPPRC to a private account of the president.

Adheeb was convicted and sentenced to eight years for misappropriating acquisition fees paid by a foreign company for the 50-year lease of a lagoon in the capital atoll.

President Yameen had been questioned by the ACC over a transaction that a company involved in the MMPRC scandal had made to his personal account in the Islamic Bank.

Government supporters including ruling party lawmakers and top state officials have lept to the defence of president Yameen immediately after the invitation hit social networking sites.

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan Hussain Manik said similar to earlier media reports, the Al Jazeera documentary would probably be based on baseless allegations without any evidence.

If there was any evidence, Nihan challenged the opposition to take the allegations to court.

The Villi-Maafannu MP was referring to the international money laundering racket thought to be worth up to USD800 million linked to incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Yameen was described as “the kingpin” of a scheme to buy subsidised oil through the State Trading Organisation’s (STO) branch in Singapore and sell it on through an entity called ‘Mocom Trading’ to the Burmese military junta, at a black market premium.

Yameen who was the then STO chairman was investigated but no substantial evidence was found to link him to the scandal.

“It’s of little concern to us. The parliamentary group members are not worried at all,” Nihan told reporters after a sit-down with the president and the PPM PG group on Sunday afternoon.

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