Former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Ghafoor and former Managing Director of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) Abdulla Ziyath were granted presidential pardons on Monday, November 13.
Both Adeeb and Ziyath were serving 20 year sentences in convictions related to a major corruption case concerning the MMPRC.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has granted them absolute pardons just four days before the end of his presidential term, giving rise to allegations from the civil society, as well as the general public, that it is an abuse of the clemency and sentence commutation powers of the President, and an evident failure to uphold his earlier pledge of 'zero tolerance' of corruption. The Human Rights Commission of Maldives has also released a statement criticizing the move.
Near the beginning of his presidential term, President Solih announced a campaign to eradicate corruption in the country, titled "Zero Tolerance to Corruption". He went on to ratify the Whistleblower Protection Act, as well as introducing a portal through which reports of corruption can be submitted, even anonymously. He has conducted several programmes to encourage transparency and accountability in governance.
However, Transparency Maldives released a statement alleging there is a lack of meaningful action taken by this administration to address gaps in legislation which facilitate corruption. They described the presidential pardons of Adeeb and Ziyath as an abuse of clemency powers, and stated that with actions in this vein, the current administration is providing a 'green light' for acts of corruption and protecting those culpable.
While there are multiple expressions of public discontent at the pardon on social media, Adeeb himself has posted on social media X, indicating a return to political activities through his party, Maldives Third-Way Democrats (MTD).
In October 2020, Adeeb was sentenced to a 20 year prison sentence over his involvement in the large scale corruption concerning Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).
The 'MMPRC scandal', as it is referred to generally, concerns the largest grand corruption case to have come to light in the country's democratic history.
Adeeb received the 20 year sentence after entering a plea bargain with the State, where he confessed to all seven charges pressed against him in return for a diminished sentence.
The charges brought against Adeeb were two counts of embezzlement for leasing islands and lagoons through MMPRC during his time as Tourism Minister, and transferring the state funds generated from these deals to accounts of his choosing.
One money laundering charge was raised on allegations that he had used and withheld the USD 59 million generated through the said leases.
A second money laundering charge was placed for withholding the money earned through the USD exchange transactions between MMPRC and Maldives Ports Limited (MPL), as well as utilizing said funds for personal purposes.
Adeeb was also charged with exerting undue influence to garner illicit gains from securing and using funds generated from the MMPRC-MPL dollar transactions, as well as a million-dollar loan taken by MMPRC from Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC).
An additional charge for exerting undue influence, this time to present illicit gains for another party, was also brought against him for using his position of power to lease islands and lagoon through MMPRC without a bidding process, and in doing so benefitting other involved parties.
As a final charge, he was tried for abusing his official position.
Adeeb was previously sentenced to 33 years in prison over three different cases, including terrorism charges related to an explosion on then President Abdulla Yameen's speedboat. The trials were widely criticized by rights groups as being unfair and politically influenced. The High Court and Supreme Court later overturned the sentences.
Ziyath also was serving a 20 year sentence. He was first given a 8 year sentence, which was followed by an additional 12 year prison sentence in September 2023.
This was a result of a plea bargain he had entered in to with the State, where in he accepted 4 year terms for each charge raised against him, as well as to offer cooperation in the efforts for recovery of the damages.
In May 2021, the parliament released publicly a list of all persons implicated in the MMPRC corruption scandal. The list named 281 individuals, including past and present state officials, parliamentarians and judges.
Of these 281, only three has been convicted to date.
The third person convicted of involvement in this case of grand corruption is former President Abdulla Yameen, who remains serving an 11 year prison sentence. He is currently under house arrest, though with leeway to leave the house for medical and some other specified purposes with prior approval from the Maldives Correctional Services.