Former MMPRC chief faces new corruption charges

Former MMPRC chief faces new corruption charges
December 14 18:06 2016

The Anti-Corruption Commission has asked the chief prosecutor to press corruption charges and initiate legal proceedings against Abdulla Ziyath to seize a plot of land he bought from public funds embezzled from the state-owned tourism promotion firm, the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation.

The former managing director of MMPRC, who is already serving an eight-year sentence on charges of graft, had swapped the island of Mathiveri Finolhu for a house in Malé’s suburb in 2014, the ACC said.

The island in North Ari Atoll was sold to an unnamed man for US$400,000.

Some MVR5million (US$324,254) of the amount was returned to the same man for a plot of land in Hulhumalé, the ACC said, and registered in Ziyath’s cousin’s name.

The ACC did not specify if the owner of the Hulhumalé property or Ziyath’s cousin were complicit in this deal.

Ziyath had personally accepted two blank cheques of US$ 300,000 on September 23 and $100,000 on December 22 in 2014 as acquisition costs for the sandbank, the ACC said, but the money never made it into the MMPRC’s bank accounts.

Instead, the ACC found that the sum was deposited to the bank account of Ziyath’s cousin, withdrawn and deposited again into the bank account of the seller of the Hulhumalé property.

The transactions, said the ACC, led them to believe that that Ziyath had used the money paid to MMPRC to buy the house in Hulhumalé.

The ACC has asked the prosecutor general’s office to press charges under the penal code for ‘misusing official authority as a public official with the intent of obtaining an unentitled benefit to himself or another person’.

In June, Ziyath was sentenced to jail for eight years after being found guilty of embezzling money received by the MMPRC as acquisition fees for Lhaviyani Atoll Maabinhura. Former vice President Ahmed Adeeb, who had reportedly spearheaded the corruption scam with Ziyath, was also sentenced.

special audit report released in February revealed corruption in the leasing of several other lagoons, islands and properties.

The ACC also launched an investigation into the corruption, but the release of the final report has been delayed for more than a year.