Home minister is the latest politician under fire in tourism scandal

Home minister is the latest politician under fire in tourism scandal
January 07 16:52 2016

Home Minister Umar Naseer is the latest politician to come under fire for securing a property for tourism through corruption.

An anonymous member of the public lodged a complaint with the Anti Corruption Commission on Monday alleging that Naseer threatened Fisheries Minister Mohamed Shainee and his staff to obtain a lagoon in Malé atoll for his Whale Submarine company, which conducts underwater submarine tours.

The letter, obtained by The Maldives Independent, said Naseer’s company first submitted a request to the tourism ministry. The application was rejected.

It was the fisheries ministry, which does not have a mandate to lease islands for tourism, that leased the lagoon to Naseer.

The complainant pledged to submit documentary evidence if the watchdog decides to investigate the matter.

Neither Naseer or Shainee were responding to calls for comment.

It emerged in recent weeks that companies affiliated with ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives MPs Mohamed Musthafa, Hussain Manik Dhon Manik and Riyaz Rasheed, and main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s Ahmed ‘ADK’ Nashid were awarded islands without due process.

Former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb is facing 53 counts of corruption over the lease of public land for tourism. He was the tourism minister until he was appointed as vice president in July last year.

Tens of millions of dollars are thought to be missing.

New Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer has said the state will honor the disputed agreements despite Adeeb being prosecuted for corruption.

“If acquisition fees have been paid, with a written contract, I do not see a reason why the contracts should be rejected. What we should do is to develop these islands and serve the people,” he told newspaper Haveeru. 

Adeeb was first arrested over a mysterious explosion on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat in September.

The ACC is also reportedly investigating a fifth MP’s alleged illicit enrichment. Mohamed ‘Mohamma’ Abdulla’s is accused of using funds he had earned as bribes to buy a plot of land worth MVR4.5million in capital Malé.

The leasing of Nasandhura Palace Hotel, to Kinam Holdings – a company partly owned by President Abdulla Yameen’s brother-in-law Mohamed Manik – to be redeveloped as a 15-storey five-star hotel, has also been forwarded to the PG for prosecution.

Both the ACC and the Auditor General’s Office are investigating the lease of tourism properties. The Audit Office says the investigation will be completed by mid January. The islands were leased through the state owned tourism promotion firm Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Company.

The former Managing Director of MMPRC, Abdulla Ziyath, is also facing charges over the scandal. He was among the first to be arrested following the boat blast, which the government insists was caused by a bomb. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, said it had found no evidence of an explosive device on the presidential speedboat.

The PG office has also filed money laundering charges against Hamid Ismail – an influential businessman related to Adeeb – at the criminal court this morning. According to the police, acquisition fees paid to the MMPRC for a resort lease were deposited into the accounts of a company linked to Hamid, instead of the state treasury.

The police said last month 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.