Anti-corruption watchdog seeks charges against ex-STELCO chief

Anti-corruption watchdog seeks charges against ex-STELCO chief
August 01 09:00 2017

The anti-corruption watchdog has asked the Prosecutor General’s office to press charges against two senior officials of the State Electricity Company over a transaction to buy dollars.

The Anti-Corruption Commission sought charges against Abdul Shukoor, STELCO’s former managing director, and Mohamed Saleem, head of the finance department, over an MVR3 million (US$194,550) advance payment made to a private company that was not licensed for currency exchange.

The managing director was responsible for ensuring that financial transactions comply with government regulations and company procedures, the commission said in a statement on Monday.

Following an inquiry, the ACC concluded that Shukoor and Saleem had abused their authority to provide unlawful benefit to a third party, an offence under anti-corruption laws.

The watchdog also asked the PG office to recover the missing funds.

In January this year, both STELCO and the state-owned Fenaka Corporation sued a local company called Sharu Launch Services to recover millions of Rufiyaa lost in an alleged foreign currency exchange scam.

According to the lawsuit filed by STELCO in November, the speedboat transfer company was paid more than MVR3 million to buy US$200,000 at the market rate of MVR15.42 per dollar.

Fenaka sued in December to recover MVR17 million (US$1.1 million) that it ostensibly expected to receive in dollars within 30 days. But three dollar cheques made out to the company with an invalid Mauritius Commercial Bank guarantee stamp bounced.

Both the police and the ACC launched investigations after local media uncovered the Fenaka scandal in late 2016.

In October, the police arrested one of the shareholders of Sharu Launch Services and an official of the Mauritius Commercial Bank. However, both suspects were later released.

Dated cheques issued to STELCO had also bounced.

According to the ACC, officials told investigators that STELCO did not determine whether the company had the financial wherewithal to sell dollars because the cheques were submitted with a bank guarantee from the Mauritius Commercial Bank.

But the ACC said STELCO had failed to make a reasonable effort to check the validity of the MCB stamp.

Shukoor was meanwhile dismissed from STELCO and appointed state minister of environment in early June. He was previously in charge of the state utility company for several years until his dismissal in late 2008 following the change of government.

He was reappointed to lead STELCO in June 2014 after President Abdulla Yameen assumed office.

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