Opposition to take to the streets over Maldives’ biggest-ever corruption scandal

Opposition to take to the streets over Maldives’ biggest-ever corruption scandal
January 28 20:19 2016

Opposition parties are planning to take to the streets on February 5 over tens of millions of dollars missing from resort leases in what the graft watchdog has called the Maldives’ biggest ever corruption scandal.

The walk – organised by the Maldivian Democratic Party and the Adhaalath Party – is the opposition’s first street activity since a massive police crackdown on a three-day protest in November.

“On February 5, the MDP and its allies are marching to urge and encourage the Anti Corruption Commission and the Auditor General to conduct a thorough investigation of the biggest graft case ever witnessed,” said Anas Abdul Sattar, the MDP’s deputy secretary general.

Between US$60million – US$100million is rumoured to be missing from the state-owned Maldivian Marketing and Public Relations Corporation’s lease of islands and lagoons for tourism.

When the former Auditor General Ibrahim Niyaz first flagged the issue in a 2014 report, he was sacked.

President Abdulla Yameen only ordered an inquiry after the arrest of his deputy, who had handled the tourism portfolio since 2012, on suspicion of links to a mysterious blast on the presidential speedboat.

At the time, Yameen publicly accused Ahmed Adeeb of siphoning funds to bribe police and military officers. The scandal has also embroiled ministers and MPs.

“This is not the first time we’ve raised this issue. President Yameen wants to shrug off responsibility and pin this on others. But Adeeb is saying everything he did was on President Yameen’s orders,” said Mohamed Shifaz, the MDP Vice President.

Watchdog institutions must look into the extent of Yameen’s involvement, he added.

The president’s office this week denounced allegations of MMPRC fees having been deposited in Yameen’s personal bank accounts, with a spokesman saying the president “would not involve himself in any unlawful activities.”

The ACC and the AG office officials have not questioned the president yet, the spokesman said.

The AG Office has now completed and forwarded a first draft of the report to the police and the ACC. The tourism promotion firm had not been audited since Yameen assumed power.

Shifaz said some senior ruling party members will also join the walk, and urged the police to allow the walk to proceed.

The MDP is also holding a rally on February 4.

Parliamentarians under fire include ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives MPs Mohamed Musthafa, Hussain Manik Dhon Manik and Riyaz Rasheed, MP and Leader of the Maldives Development Alliance’s Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam and main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s Ahmed ‘ADK’ Nashid.

A submarine tour company affiliated with Home Minister Umar Naseer was also reportedly awardeda lagoon without due process.

Fisheries Minister Dr Mohamed Shainee and Attorney General Mohamed Anil were questioned over the scandal earlier this month.

Former AG Niyaz has raised doubts over the possibility of an independent investigation, saying that the PPM had systematically paralysed watchdog institutions.

The MMPRC has also 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.