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Yameen's statement in MMPRC probe taken in violation of procedures: reports

Ahmed Aiham
17 February 2019, MVT 17:12
Former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom summoned to Maldives Police for investigation. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU
Ahmed Aiham
17 February 2019, MVT 17:12

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) allegedly violated procedures when acquiring a statement from former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom regarding the notorious graft scandal of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), according to local reports.

The largest graft scandal in the history of Maldives, the MMPRC corruption saw the embezzlement of over MVR 1.3 billion, acquired via island and lagoon leases for tourism, through a private company SOF Pvt Ltd.

According to ACC, Yameen was interrogated about USD 1 million deposited by SOF Pvt Ltd, to his Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB) account on November 2015.

SOF is known to have ties with Ahmed Adeeb, who was first the Minister of Tourism and later Vice President in Yameen's government.

On May 31, 2016, ACC declared that the former President and Presidential Office fully cooperated with the commission in relation to the investigation surrounding the embezzlement case.

The statements taken from Yameen were used in the 700-page report on the investigation, released by ACC on February 14, 2019.

However, local media Mihaaru reported that Yameen's statement was taken in violation of standard regulations and in a manner that renders it invalid in a court of law.

Furthermore, Mihaaru claims to have uncovered that Yameen did not wish to be questioned for ACC's investigation, and even after multiple requests by the commission, he did not comply with them.

Following the refusal to cooperate, ACC approached the Prosecutor General. After discussions took place between ACC and PG, Yameen requested to send in writing the information they sought.

It is understood that Yameen responded to ACC's questions on SOF transactions in writing, through the former Minister of Legal Affairs at the President's Office, Azima Shukoor.

Yameen's statement for the investigation did not have his fingerprint. Moreover, as per ACC's regulations, records must be kept, including questions and answers for any statements taken for an investigation.

ACC did not further probe Yameen following the statement.

Certain lawyers have claimed that the inclusion of his statement in the report was an act to mislead the public.

Under the condition of anonymity, an ACC member stated that Yameen had met with two of the commission members for interrogation. The anonymous member revealed that the scandal's report featured the statements of Yameen during his meeting with the members.

The former president has denied all accusations made by the police, ACC and FIU. He maintained that the money he received from SOF were donations made by his people who supported him for political campaigns and, thus, it belonged to him.

Yameen stated that Adeeb had been managing the funds he received, and that he began recovering the money from Adeeb following the explosion on the presidential speedboat 'Finifenmaa'. Adeeb was the prime suspect of the incident that took place in September 2015.

Although the statements given by Yameen reveal his attempts to contact Adeeb through voice calls and texts to retrieve the funds, it remains unclear if ACC inquired about the amount of money in question.

The report also failed to mention Yameen's responses to his former deputy's claim that islands and lagoons were leased for tourism purposes after discussions with Adeeb.

Furthermore, the report did not mention Yameen's statements regarding the questions he faced when probed over information released by SOF's shareholders. According to the shareholders, funds acquired through money laundering went into Yameen's accounts.

An ACC member stated that the published report included only the important information, without mentioning all the details.

Following the Al-Jazeera documentary 'Stealing Paradise' which exposed corruption and money laundering within the government, Adeeb was questioned over the information released by SOF's shareholders, and his statements were included in the report. At that time, he was in jail over orchestrating the speedboat blast in an attempt to assassinate the President.