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Maldives’’ court orders additional time to be provided for ex-pres to review case docs

DIGEST-Maldives-07-12-2020

A Maldivian Criminal Court has ordered the state to make arrangements such that jailed former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom can study the case documents of two ongoing court cases pertaining to him.

In new charges raised against the former president, the Prosecutor General’s Office is seeking a conviction for money laundering and accepting bribery. The two charges were raised against Yameen in relation to the leasing of Fushi Dhiggaru island of Raa atoll for resort development through Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).

President Yameen is alleged to have received bribes amounting to US$ 1,117,000 through an individual named Ahmed Krik Riza, and is accused of laundering the funds via Sun Construction and Engineering, and Sun Investments. The Prosecutor General's Office said the state is working to recover US$ 38,689,425 in the case, including the US$ 1,349,885 involved in the crime as well as US$ 2,295,250 that was obtained through criminal activity, and an additional fine of US$ 34,689,425.

In the preliminary hearing held Sunday, President Yameen’s legal team once again reiterated concerns over not receiving the documents related to the case. Lead counsel and former Vice President of the Maldives, Dr. Mohamed Jameel said the defense requested the state in writing to provide the relevant documents, and the state had highlighted its opinions on the documents. However, deciding which documents are relevant to the defense is not the responsibility of the state, said Jameel, adding that it is impossible to respond to the charges without having access to the relevant documents. The defense also noted that the time provided to study the several CDs and documents in digital form were inadequate.

In its response, the state said that all documents except some administrative documents, and documents for which confidentiality has been requested from the court have been provided to the defense. The confidential documents cannot be shared with the defense unless ordered by the court, said the state.

The presiding judge voiced concern over the fact that the hearing could not be carried out even today due to complaints of not receiving the relevant documents. He then inquired regarding the relevant documents from the state, and cross checked with the defense whether the specific document had been received. Two documents that were not part of the confidential documents were not received by the state, it was found.

The defense has also lodged a complaint stating that a CD containing a bank statement could not be opened. The judge then ordered the state to correct the issue and hand over the CD to the court by Monday. The defense was also instructed to collect the CD the same day.

The defence also requested to obtain all documents mentioned in the annex of the report prepared by the Anti Corruption Commission on the MMPRC Corruption. In response, the state said while two statements in the ACC report were used as grounds for charging, both statements have been shared with the defence. The Judge said if the defense believes the documents mentioned in the annex of the report are important to the case, they have the option to obtain the records on their own through the Right to Information Act.

The judge also provided a solution to complaints that adequate time was not provided to the defence to study over 20 hours of video and digital bank statements. He acknowledged that a two hour meeting with the legal team was not sufficient to study the documents, and ordered that sufficient time is provided to the defense, even if it took a long time. He further instructed the defense to inform the court if the arrangements are not facilitated by December 15.

The judge has scheduled the next hearing for January 7, 2021. No complaints relating to documents will be entertained during the hearing, said the judge.

Former President Yameen is currently serving a five-year sentence after being found guilty of money laundering in relation to the MMPRC corruption case. He was accused of defying the agreement between himself and the Anti-Corruption Commission, which stipulated the former president to move funds in his Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB) account that are suspected of having been laundered into an escrow account set up between the two parties.

Failing to do so, and moving the funds in question into an investment account, the former president deposited funds from another source into the escrow account.

Finding him guilty of the charges levied against him, the Criminal Court sentenced the former president to five years in jail and ordered him to pay US$ five million to the state after being found guilty of money laundering on November 28 last year.