The police have launched a probe into an MP Mohamed Ismail’s apparent admission of bribery from the ruling coalition in March last year.
The Maldives Development Alliance MP caused outrage when he declared during a televised parliament sitting that he had carried “sacks of money” to opposition MPs.
A police spokeswoman confirmed that an investigation is underway after a complaint was filed anonymously. She declined to disclose further details.
MP Ismail was unavailable for comment.
The remarks came on March 6 during a debate on a motion calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the theft of nearly US$80 million from the state-owned tourism promotion company.
“I carried and distributed the money, and they all took it,” he had said during the heated debate.
The anti-corruption watchdog said at the time that it would launch an inquiry. But lawmakers cannot be prosecuted over statements made during parliament sittings.
Ismail later stood by the admission during an appearance on the pro-government DhiTV a week later, claiming he distributed cash as a favour to jailed former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, who is serving a 33-year jail sentence on multiple counts of corruption and terrorism.
Ismail insisted that he had not committed a crime as he was unaware the money was stolen.
“Had I known that the money came from an act of corruption, I would not have taken it,” he said.
Ismail said he thought the money could have been a loan from the Adeeb.
“All I know is that Adeeb handed over the money [to me]. I took the money to them. I didn’t know at all that it was state funds or anything else,” he said.
Since the unprecedented scale of the theft was laid bare in a damning audit report in 2016, President Abdulla Yameen has insisted that his former deputy was solely responsible for syphoning off millions of dollars from resort lease payments.
The authorities have meanwhile faced criticism over the failure to investigate Ismail’s remarks after Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim was interrogated recently for offering to grant tickets for the 2019 parliamentary elections to MPs who voted in favour of a no-confidence motion against the speaker of parliament.
He had also offered to help with the re-election campaigns. He later said his remarks were directed at JP MPs who have switched to the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, maintaining that he was fulfilling his responsibility after the party issued a three-line whip to vote in favour of the no-confidence motion.
Gasim is standing trial on charges of bribery and attempting to influence voting and official conduct.