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Maldives’ ex-president denies charges, evidence to be submitted

DIGEST-Maldives-02-02-2021

Former President of the Maldives, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom has denied the money laundering and bribery charges raised against him.

The Prosecutor General’s Office raised the charges against Yameen in relation to the leasing of R. Fuggiri island for tourism development purposes through the Tourism Ministry and the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corportation (MMPRC).

In the preliminary hearing held on Monday, President Yameen said the charges raised against him are unclear to him, and that he had several questions regarding the charges. He stated that the charges raised against him were politically motivated.

President Yameen’s lead counsel and former Vice President of the Maldives, Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed detailed the reasons why the former president was denying the charges raised againt him. Jameel said while President Yameen is the opposition leader, the case was an attempt by the current government to prevent the opposition from holding the government accountable. He added that the whole case was based on misusing power to ensure that Yameen does not return to politics. He further questioned if the witness statements of former Vice President of the Maldives, Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Ghafoor, and former Managing Director of MMPRC Abdulla Ziyath can be accepted as both the witnesses produced by the state were themselves have been convicted of crimes.

During Monday’s hearing, President Yameen requested the court to allow the chance to submit evidence during the next hearing as one of his appeal hearings are currently ongoing in Supreme Court. He also requested to grant an extended period to prepare for trial. Before concluding the hearing, the presiding judge said evidence submission will be scheduled within the first ten days of February.

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 an 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. The money is said to be funds acquired for the leasing of Vodumulaa island.

Failing to follow the terms of the agreement between himself and ACC, 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 on November 28, 2019. The High Court earlier this month upheld the Criminal Court’s verdict.