An influential businessman, arrested in Malaysia, on suspicion of links to an explosion on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat was released on Friday, but detained immediately on a new charge.
Hamid Ismail, who is also related to former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, was charged with money laundering and embezzling money from resort leases.
“Hamid was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the embezzling of money from resort leases and money laundering. He was detained today after the investigation into the first charge against him was completed,” a police statement on Friday said.
Hamid was first arrested in Kuala Lumpur on October 28 at the request of Maldivian authorities. He was deported to the Maldives a few days later.
Although the government said Hamid had been arrested on suspicion of links to the September 28 blast, his lawyer Husnu Suood said he was arrested on a charge of threatening Yameen.
The criminal court first remanded Hamid for 15 days, and then extended the remand by five more days.
According to the police, an inquiry into the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation’s lease of islands and reefs for tourism has found that acquisition fees from a lease was deposited into the accounts of a company linked to Hamid, instead of the state treasury.
The money was then distributed among several suspects arrested over the boat blast, the police said.
Speaking to the Maldives Independent, Suood identified the company to be Millenium Capital Management Pvt Ltd.
Former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim had flagged the company in a special audit report in October 2014, saying MMPRC had transferred some MVR77.1million (US$6million) from the state owned ports company to Millenium’s accounts.
Niyaz was sacked the next day, and replaced with Hassan Ziyath, the brother of the MMPRC’s Managing Director Abdulla Ziyath, who is also in police custody now.
Adeeb, the prime suspect in the boat blast, was also arrested on October 24 from the airport upon his return from an official trip to China, and charged with high treason. He is also facing prosecution on weapons possession and corruption.
Yameen has ordered an audit of MMPRC over missing funds. The missing money reportedly amounts to between US$60-100million.
Government officials said they only became aware of the corruption within MMPRC during the course of the investigation into the blast. The government insists the blast was caused by a bomb targeting Yameen, despite contradictory forensic findings by international experts.
The police are also investigating the tourism promotion firm’s illegal import of fireworks.
Police officers had raided Hamid’s residence in Malé several times, and officers had been stationed there for weeks after the raid.
The court warrant authorising the search was issued in connection to the explosion on the president’s speedboat.
The warrant authorised the seizure of security camera footage and said that police intelligence have learned of efforts to erase the footage and “destroy other evidence.”