Faris escapes prosecution over statute of limitations

Faris escapes prosecution over statute of limitations
May 01 16:49 2017

The Prosecutor General’s office has rejected a case forwarded by the police to prosecute Faris Maumoon, son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, over alleged failure to reimburse the state.

The charges reportedly stemmed from the misuse of state funds from the former presidential palace Theemuge in 2007 and 2008, the last two years of Gayoom’s 30-year reign. 

Ahmed Thaufeeg, spokesman for the PG office, told the Maldives Independent that the statute of limitations in the penal code for the illegal expenses charge is eight years.

“So went sent back the case. We will not be filing the case at court for prosecution,” he said.

The details of the charges sought by the police remain unclear. Faris was not serving in any official capacity at the palace.

The move came amid an intensified crackdown after Gayoom joined forces with the opposition to challenge President Abdulla Yameen’s parliamentary majority.

Faris was summoned for questioning at the police headquarters five times ahead of the new opposition coalition’s failed bid to impeach the speaker of parliament on March 27.

The MP for the Dhiggaru constituency has been leading a breakaway bloc of lawmakers that took his father’s side after the ruling party was split into rival factions. Faris is Yameen’s nephew.

Following the arrest and prosecution of Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim, the government dismissed allegations of harassing and intimidating opposition leaders, insisting that the police and judiciary are independent.

Earlier this month, Abdul Aleem, secretary-general of the Gayoom faction, was put on trial for contempt of court over alleged contravention of the civil court ruling that put Yameen in charge of the Progressive Party of Maldives.

On Thursday, the civil court fined Aleem MVR85,000 (US$5,500) and ordered him to pay within 10 days.

The supreme court hiked the fine for actions that constitute contempt of court from MVR10,000 (US$649) to MVR100,000 (US$6,485) in February 2016.

Aleem told the Maldives Independent that he is planning to appeal the decision.

“I will appeal the judgment this week, however, I am also prepared to pay the fine as well,” he said.

The police have also sought Interpol assistance to find Gayoom’s personal assistant, Ahmed Sofwan, in connection with an undisclosed investigation. Sofwan’s passport has also been revoked.

The 38-year-old is reportedly in India, where Gayoom is presently visiting a sick relative. Sofwan is also a member of the PPM’s governing council.

Zaidul Ameen, a PPM Malé City councillor and staunch Gayoom loyalist, was meanwhile arrested on a charge of blackmailing “senior figures” in January. 

His detention has been extended eight times since the arrest. He was transferred to house arrest in late April.

Last week, Zaid was charged with unauthorised disclosure of information, obstruction of law enforcement, and unauthorised acquirement of information.

He faces a maximum jail sentence of three years if he is found guilty on all three counts.

The first hearing of the trial last Tuesday was closed to the media and members of the public.

His lawyer Mahfooz Saeed previously told The Maldives Independent that the charges have been changed three times since his arrest in January.

Zaid was first arrested on charges of “criminal coercion” and changed to “unlawful eavesdropping” a month later. In late April, it was changed again to “obstructing the administration of law.”

According to Mahfooz, the charges were revised after discussions with state prosecutors.

“The police and PG are randomly flipping through the penal code to see what they can through at this politically motivated situation,” he said last week.

Zaid has accused a high-ranking police officer of threatening to keep him detained unless he gave false testimony that could be used as a pretext to arrest Gayoom.