Adeeb faces fresh charges over missing funds from 17 resort leases

Adeeb faces fresh charges over missing funds from 17 resort leases
December 29 16:40 2015

Former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb is facing fresh charges over missing funds from 17 islands leased for resort development by the government-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation.

The Prosecutor General’s office’s spokesperson told The Maldives Independent today that the police had forwarded cases against Adeeb and former MMPRC Managing Director Abdulla Ziyath on Thursday.

The cases are currently under review. The PG office has yet to determine whether to press charges, the spokesperson said.

The police have also forwarded money laundering charges against Hamid Ismail, an influential businessman related to Adeeb. According to the police, acquisition fees paid to the MMPRC for a resort lease was deposited into the accounts of a company linked to Hamid, instead of the state treasury.

Earlier this month, the PG office filed abuse of power charges against Adeeb over the lease of a lagoon in Malé atoll to a foreign company.

An unannounced first hearing in the corruption case took place on December 17 via teleconference at the police detention centre on the island of Dhoonidhoo. Adeeb was granted 30 days to appoint a lawyer.

Adeeb was arrested on October 24 on suspicion of plotting to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen. The government says a bomb targeting the president caused the September 28 explosion on the president’s speedboat, but Adeeb claims the incident was “staged” to frame him.

The police said this week that the investigation into the alleged bombing is still ongoing.

The MMPRC has been at the centre of the boat blast probe. The government says bomb-making material may have been smuggled on a fireworks shipment imported by the MMPRC.

Nearly US$100 million embezzled from fees paid for 53 islands leased for resort development is meanwhile thought to be missing.

The PG office spokesperson previously explained that lagoons and uninhabited islands are under the authority of the tourism ministry, which leases them to the MMPRC.

The 100 percent government-owned corporation then subleases the properties to developers and collects acquisition fees.

Ziyath is accused of embezzling portions of the acquisition fees paid to the state.

“We suspect that Adeeb had facilitated the embezzlement through his influence, power and authority as the vice president and the minister in charge at the tourism ministry while Ziyath is suspected of embezzling the acquisition fees,” he said.

Adeeb is also facing terrorism charges on suspicion of carrying a pistol. The charges were filed at the criminal court last month, but the trial has not started yet.

In October 2014, former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim had flagged the transfer of millions of dollars from the MMPRC to Hamid’s Millennium Capital Management.

A special audit found that Adeeb had arranged for the transfer of MVR77 million (US$4.9 million) from the state-owned Maldives Ports Limited to Millenium, which was to be paid back in dollars. Only US$3 million of the pledged US$5 million had been paid back as of October 2014.

Niyaz was contentiously removed from his post a day after the audit report was published. He was replaced with Hassan Ziyath, the brother of the MMPRC’s Managing Director Abdulla Ziyath.