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ACC alleges BML involvement in MMPRC scandal

Ahmed Aiham
20 December 2018, MVT 10:41
Bank of Maldives Ltd (BML) head office in Male City. PHOTO: BML
Ahmed Aiham
20 December 2018, MVT 10:41

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), on Tuesday, alleged that Bank of Maldives (BML) employees were involved in the embezzlement of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) funds.

In ACC's first ever detailed report on the MMPRC scandal, BML staff have been accused of involvement in the USD 22 million in island and lagoon acquisition costs, which was deposited to a private account at BML. The deposit was made via an MMPRC cheque endorsed by the corporation's then managing director, Abdulla Ziyath.

The bank has maintained their stance on the matter by denying any involvement in the scandal. Moreover, the bank declared that suspicious transactions made through MMPRC were reported to central bank Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA)'s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in 2014.

Previously, BML stated that they have operated within the banking laws and regulations of Maldives.

Gasim Abdul Kareem, the former assistant manager at the Bank of Maldives’ Nilandhoo Branch, Faafu Atoll, responsible for the whistleblowing on the corruption case, received an 8 month and 12-day prison sentence for unlawfully disclosing private information, on November 15, 2016.

ACC is also looking into USD 1 million, embezzled from MMPRC, which was deposited in an account of former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, at Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB).

The MMPRC case, which surfaced in 2015, is the largest corruption scandal to rock the Maldives in history. Following initial investigations, the Auditor General's Office had disclosed that MVR 1.2 billion in state funds had been embezzled via the corporation, although the recent report by the corruption watchdog reveals that the embezzlement amounts to a staggering MVR 1.4 billion.

In its report, ACC stated that the MMPRC scandal was probed by an investigation team, under the supervision of 36 staff members. The commission investigated the leasing of 57 islands and lagoons, examining 5,681 documents related to the case. ACC also looked into accounts connected to 163 individuals, probing 28,448 bank documents.

Investigations into the MMPRC and several other cases were forwarded to the Prosecutor General's Office last year for indictment. Among those prosecuted and convicted of being involved in the graft are former Vice President Ahmed Adheeb and MMPRC's former Managing Director Abdulla Ziyath, who are currently serving hefty jail sentences.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has pledged to recover the embezzled funds in his proposed efforts to fight corruption during his tenure, to which he had established a Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset recovery, on November 18.

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