Friday, October 23, 2020

Maldives: Ex-vice president Ahmed Adeeb faces new corruption charges over the theft of US$90 million

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The Prosecutor General’s office on Sunday pressed fresh corruption charges against former vice president Ahmed Adeeb over the theft of US$90 million from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation.

Cases were filed at the criminal court on seven counts, the PG office said in a brief press statement.

The cases were forwarded by police on September 21 after a joint investigation with the Anti-Corruption Commission and the presidential commission on asset recovery into “corruption, embezzlement and money laundering carried out through the MMPRC in 2014 and 2015,” it added.

Ahmed Adeeb is currently serving a three-month jail sentence passed over an attempt to flee the Maldives in defiance of a travel ban imposed by the Supreme Court.

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After serving three years in prison over the MMPRC embezzlement scheme and an alleged plot to assassinate former president Abdulla Yameen, Adeeb was transferred to house arrest in the wake of his estranged mentor’s defeat in the September 2018 presidential election.

In late May, Ahmed Adeeb walked out of court an innocent man after his 33-year combined sentence on terrorism and corruption charges was wiped out by the appeal courts, which cited political influence and ordered retrials.

But the criminal court dismissed 15 pending cases against Adeeb, including two for which the High Court ordered retrials. The lower court’s council contended that moving ahead with Adeeb’s cases without “an investigation that is free of influence” would not be legitimate.

The Supreme Court is meanwhile due to rule on an appeal of the High Court’s decision to set aside Adeeb’s conviction over the alleged embezzlement of US$5 million paid as a resort acquisition fee.

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Last month, Adeeb testified as a prosecution witness in Yameen’s money laundering trial, claiming to have followed the former president’s orders in siphoning off acquisition fees paid to the MMPRC to lease islands and lagoons for resort development.

Adeeb called himself “a victim of a tyrannical regime” and claimed to have been threatened with murder or poisoning after signing a cooperation agreement with the authorities. The beneficiaries of the stolen funds included people in high offices of the state, including ministers, judges and lawmakers, he told the court.

Citing the findings of the asset recovery commission, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih told the press earlier this month that the sum of money lost to corruption in the MMPRC scandal was US$128 million higher than previously estimated.

“About 60 islands were leased at cut prices to various parties, the [presidential commission’s] report has revealed so far. As you know, the audit report previously concluded that US$91 million was lost,” he said. “However, according to investigations so far, the acquisition costs of the islands reach about US$220 million when the cost is calculated at present rates. This is without including the leased lagoons.”

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