Maldives MPs caught up in tourism scandal

Maldives MPs caught up in tourism scandal
January 05 19:53 2016

Detained former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, who is facing corruption charges over the lease of some 53 islands for tourism, has been questioned over the lease of properties to companies linked to at least four MPs, local media report.

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.

New Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer said the contracts will not be overturned even though the state is pressing corruption charges against Adeeb.

“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, who was first arrested over a mysterious explosion on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat in September, is being prosecuted over tens of millions of dollars missing in lease revenues.

CNM today said the authorities are investigating the lease to Radhun Resort and Investment Pvt. Ltd., a company chaired by Nashid. He was the only MDP MP who broke a three-line whip and voted to impeach Adeeb in a rushed vote in November.

Nashid was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

Haveeru meanwhile reported today that Adeeb was questioned over the lease of Thaa Atoll Ekuruhfushi to a company affiliated with Musthafa, who had defected from the MDP to the PPM following his election win in 2014.

Ekuruhfushi was awarded to Musthafa’s Seawall Enterprises for a fee of US$300,000 (MVR4.6 million) in July last year.

Musthafa responded in a tweet today saying: “If an island has been leased to a company affiliated to me, the payment would have been fully paid.” He stressed: “It is not corruption if an island is leased after payment.”

The watchdog Anti Corruption Commission is meanwhile investigating the lease of Thaa Atoll Kalhudhiyafushi to a company partly owned by Hussain Manik.

“It is the duty of the ACC to ensure no corruption is involved in such cases,” the MP said in a tweet in late December. He is open to any probes, he added.

Local media also reported that the police are investigating the lease of Thaa Atoll Olhugiri Island to a company owned by a relative of the deputy leader of PPM’s parliamentary group, Riyaz Rasheed.

Rasheed denied the reports via a tweet, saying: “MMPRC has not leased an island to anyone connected with me.”

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.