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Ex-pres Yameen charged with money laundering

Fathmath Shaahunaz
13 February 2019, MVT 11:55
Former President Abdulla Yameen attends the convening meeting of People's National Congress. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU
Fathmath Shaahunaz
13 February 2019, MVT 11:55

Prosecutor General's Office charged former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom with money laundering, on Wednesday.

The former president is implicated in the notorious graft scandal of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), which involved the embezzlement of a staggering MVR 1.4 billion in state funds, acquired via island leases for tourism, through the company.

Yameen is accused of laundering some of the funds, which were deposited in his personal account.

Details of Yameen's money laundering case:

- A private company, SOF Pvt Ltd, deposited USD 1 million to Yameen's personal account at Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB) on November 2015, just months after the MMPRC scandal surfaced.

- Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed its investigation regarding the issue in 2016, stating that it could not interrogate SOF's stakeholders who had fled the country amidst the MMPRC case.

- The investigation went on hiatus, but the questionable USD 1 million in Yameen's account were not frozen.

- In 2017, Yameen transferred the USD 1 million to an investment account in MIB, as a means to make profit.

- ACC requested Yameen to hand over the USD 1 million prior to the September 2018 Presidential Elections, as the funds were suspicious. Although Yameen initially objected, he signed an agreement with ACC on March 25, 2018, to transfer the money to an escrow account in Bank of Maldives Ltd (BML).

- The former Minister of Legal Affairs at the President's Office, Azima Shukoor, informed ACC in writing that Yameen had followed the escrow agreement.

- However, it surfaced that the money transferred to the escrow account on June 10, 2018, was from a BML account under Yameen's name. According to media reports, he had received the money in question from former Minister of Tourism Moosa Zameer, who in turn had acquired it from a local company rumoured to be "close" to Yameen.

- Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA)'s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) brought to ACC's attention that the funds deposited in the escrow account were not from MIB. ACC filed a police case requesting an investigation in January 2019.

- At the time, FIU was also probing substantial deposits made to Yameen's account prior to the 2018 Presidential Election. The unit had requested the police to investigate the issue as well.

The former president has denied all accusations made by the police, ACC and FIU. He maintained that the funds deposited in MIB belonged to him, claiming that he had received them from his former deputy, Ahmed Adeeb, in the form of donations made for his presidential campaign last year.

Yameen is also under investigation for a total of MVR 22.2 million deposited into his bank account shortly before the 2018 presidential elections. FIU reported the matter to the police, outlining the issue of two deposits, one amounting to MVR 10 million on September 5, 2018, and a further deposit of MVR 12.5 million on September 10, made to an account registered at MIB under Yameen’s name.

Furthermore, the police have frozen MVR 100 million in Yameen's bank accounts, stating that questionably large sums of money had been deposited in them during the past five years.

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