Police seek charges against Gayoom’s assistant

Police seek charges against Gayoom’s assistant
June 20 16:54 2017

The police are seeking charges against former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s personal assistant over his refusal to appear for questioning over the alleged bribery of lawmakers by MP Faris Maumoon.

The Prosecutor General’s office has been asked to press charges against Ahmed Sofwan for refusing to answer multiple summons and return to the Maldives, the police announced via Twitter on Monday night.

Sofwan was wanted for questioning over his alleged involvement with Faris in bribing lawmakers to vote in favour of a failed no-confidence motion against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed in late March, the police said.

“Categorically reject [and] refute bogus accusations made against me by this govt. Threats [and] intimidation won’t make any difference to my work,” MP Faris tweeted after the police announcement.

Faris, Gayoom’s son and MP for the Dhiggaru constituency, has been questioned by the police numerous times over the bribery charges.

In late May, Faris was prevented from visiting his dying aunt because the authorities refused to lift a travel ban. The home ministry at the time accused the Gayoom family of helping Sofwan remain overseas.

“Given the situation, if Faris Maumoon travels abroad it is likely that he will also stay out of the country to obstruct the investigation,” the home ministry said.

Faris initially found out about the travel ban when he was stopped at the airport’s immigration checkpoint on May 14 after he checked in to fly to Bangalore, India to visit his aunt.

The lawmaker has since denied impeding the police from summoning Gayoom’s personal assistant.

“I don’t believe that my family or I have any responsibility or legal obligation for presenting a suspect accused of a criminal offence to the Maldives Police Service,” he said.

The police previously sought Interpol help to bring Sofwan back to the Maldives in late April. His passport has also been revoked.

In the last announcement, Sofwan was told to present himself at the police station by June 1 or face prosecution in absentia.

Faris had led the push to remove Maseeh after Gayoom joined forces with the opposition to seize the parliament’s majority from his half-brother President Abdulla Yameen. The new opposition alliance fell short after counting on defections from the divided ruling party.

The Progressive Party of Maldives was split into rival factions led by the estranged Gayoom brothers after the civil court in October controversially stripped the elder Gayoom of his powers as the party’s elected leader.

The police also sought charges against Faris in late April over alleged failure to reimburse the state. But the Prosecutor General’s office rejected the case as the statute of limitations for the illegal expenses charge was eight years.

The charges reportedly stemmed from the misuse of state funds from the former presidential palace Theemuge in 2007 and 2008, the last two years of Gayoom’s 30-year reign.

Other Gayoom loyalists have also faced legal action.

Zaidul Ameen, a former Malé city councillor, is on trial over an alleged attempt to sell a secretly recorded conversation with Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed Mohamed.

Zaid previously accused a high-ranking police officer of threatening to keep him detained unless he gave false testimony that could be used as a pretext to arrest former Gayoom.

Gayoom returned to the Maldives last week after nearly three months overseas.

Abdul Aleem, the Gayoom faction’s secretary-general, was also previously placed under investigation, along with Gayoom supporter Ibrahim Afraath, on a charge of bribing lawmakers ahead of the March 27 vote to oust the speaker of the parliament.

The police confiscated their phones and raided their home for hidden cash on April 7.

Aleem also paid an MVR85,000 (US$5,500) fine for contempt of court in early May. He was fined after a five-judge panel at the civil court decided that he contravened a ruling that effectively gave Yameen control of the PPM.

Aleem was also questioned by the police in late May over allegations of bribing lawmakers to vote in favour of a no-confidence motion against Deputy Speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik.

He was asked whether he had any knowledge about, managed, stashed or delivered funds intended to be distributed to MPs. Aleem said he categorically denied the allegations.