Maldives central bank denies money laundering allegations

Maldives central bank denies money laundering allegations
February 13 09:00 2016

The Maldives Monetary Authority has denied allegations made by the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party chairperson of the central bank’s “direct involvement” in money laundering.

Ali Waheed had told the opposition-aligned Raajje TV last week that US$1.5 billion in cash was brought to the Maldives last year on a chartered flight, stored at the state treasury, and transferred to private bank accounts through the MMA.

The MMA said in a press release on Wednesday that the former MPs’ allegations are “complete falsehoods” without any supporting evidence, adding that the bank is considering legal action against persons who defame the institution and its senior officials.

The state treasury is inside the MMA and not at the Maldives National Defence Force as Ali Waheed claimed, the statement noted, assuring that cash is withdrawn or deposited only in the presence of officials from the central bank, the parliament, the auditor general’s office, and the finance ministry.

Government income is deposited into the public bank account at the MMA as required by the Public Finance Act, the statement added.

“Accounts of government companies are kept at a bank of its choosing. Not at this authority,” the MMA said, adding that politicians have “a national duty” to maintain public trust and confidence in state coffers.

The new allegations of money laundering comes with President Abdulla Yameen’s administration embroiled in the Maldives’ biggest corruption scandal following the release of a damning audit report exposing the embezzlement of nearly US$80 million from the state-owned tourism company.

Shortly after Waheed’s appearance on Raajje TV, several documents and emails purportedly about the money laundering transactions were leaked to local media.

The documents appear to show that a Singapore-based company called Idea-V Investment Management brought the cash to the Maldives on March 9, 2015.

The flight was greeted at the international airport by senior military officials, who cleared the cash through customs, and stored it at a vault inside the military headquarters.

It was then taken to the MMA vault, deposited into public accounts, and transferred to private bank accounts at commercial banks operating in the Maldives.

A draft letter to be signed by MMA Governor Dr Azeema Adam was the only document linking the MMA to the alleged transaction.

In his Raajje TV appearance, Ali Waheed had claimed that MNDF Colonel Mohamed Fayaz ‘Papa’ has been kept under administrative detention in military barracks since early October because of his involvement in the money laundering operation.

He also said that a foreign party has investigated Yameen’s corrupt activities and shared findings with foreign governments.

The MDP had said earlier this month that it has received evidence of Yameen’s involvement in money laundering and terrorist financing.

The party said it has a report of a covert intelligence operation based on interviews with government officials and analyses conducted on material found on detained Adeeb’s personal laptops.

The evidence appears to show that senior politicians, police, military, and judges are “working together in a single criminal conspiracy creating a haven for corruption, turning a nascent democracy into an industrial-scale kleptocracy,” the party said.