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Maldives govt responds to 'biased' Al Jazeera expose

Mohamed Visham
08 September 2016, MVT 09:11
A screen grab of the Al Jazeera documentary “Stealing Paradise’ shows former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim.
Mohamed Visham
08 September 2016, MVT 09:11

Maldives government late Wednesday responded to the Al Jazeera documentary exposing mass corruption, international money laundering and abuse of power in the island nation, labeling the report as biased and in pursuance of an already declared agenda against the government.

Created by the Emmy and BAFTA winning Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, the documentary titled ‘Stealing Paradise’ contains leaked documents, text messages and recorded confessions that has blown the lid off corruption, thuggery and international money laundering in the island nation.

According to the Doha based broadcaster, the leak is the contents of three mobile phones which it says belonged to the now jailed former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor.

The documentary accuses top government officials including incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom of orchestrating the theft of millions in state funds.

In a statement, hours after the documentary was aired, the government expressed disappointment over the standard of reporting which it said denied the Maldives government the opportunity to present a balanced, fair and true version of events.

The allegations made against the government were "nothing but defamatory and falls short of accepted international and legal norms of reporting," the statement by the foreign ministry read.

According to text messages and secretly filmed confessions included in the documentary, president Yameen, through his former deputy had siphoned off millions in state funds, hijacked state institutions and bribed state officials including judges, lawyers and parliamentarians to exert his authoritarian power over the whole country.

Former aides of the now jailed ex-VP Adheeb had gone on record to say that they had personally delivered “bags of cash” to the president himself.

Mohamed ‘Moho’ Latheef who ran the front company through which nearly USD80 million was siphoned off told Al Jazeera that president Yameen was aware of the whole scheme.

“President Yameen will know me personally. I was there and I was managing some of their funds,” Latheef who is among the eight suspects wanted in connection to the blast aboard the presidential speedboat last year.

The 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 country’s graft watchdog had questioned president Yameen over the transfer of funds linked to MMPRC to his personal account at the Islamic Bank.

A screeen grab of the Al Jazeera documentary “Stealing Paradise’ showsFormer aides of former VP Adheeb who are now wanted by interpol in connection to terrorism and money laundering.

The government insisted that the MMPRC scandal was already under investigation which was initiated on direct orders of president Yameen.

The statement also slammed the opposition figures interviewed for the documentary which included jailed former president Mohamed Nasheed, former vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chairman Ali Waheed.

The government also questioned the legitimacy of the alleged confessions of Adheeb's aides which it noted were international fugitives.

"In preparing the report, the Government notes that the individuals interviewed are persons who are suspects in a corruption investigation by both the Maldives Police Service and the Anti-Corruption Commission and by whom Interpol has issued a red notice over," in clear reference to the three aides whose confessions were secretly filmed by Al Jazeera for the documentary.

"It is also noted that individuals, who are actively working against the Government, some of whom having publicly announced that they seek the removal of the legitimate Government before the end of its Constitutional Term, have also been interviewed for this report," pointing out the now united opposition's efforts led by Nasheed and Jameel, both currently in exile in the UK to oust president Yameen from office.

The government also expressed concern over the 'little evidence' that were released by Al Jazeera which it said could derail local investigations.

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