President asks bank to disclose account details to anti-corruption watchdog

President asks bank to disclose account details to anti-corruption watchdog
February 16 14:01 2016

President Abdulla Yameen has asked the Maldives Islamic Bank to disclose details of his private bank account to the anti-corruption watchdog, the president’s spokesperson said last night.

The MIB had refused to share information with the Anti-Corruption Commission for its investigation into the embezzlement of nearly US$80 million from the state-owned tourism promotion company.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party contends that Yameen, First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim, ruling party MPs, and cabinet ministers were among the beneficiaries of the biggest corruption scandal in Maldivian history.

MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed challenged the president last week to dispute evidence purportedly showing that a local company implicated in the corruption scandal deposited US$1 million to his bank account at the MIB.

Yameen has categorically denied allegations of his involvement in the corruption scandal.

The MIB, the country’s first Sharia-compliant bank, said in a statement this morning that media reports about a case it filed in the civil court were “inaccurate, misleading and purely speculative.”

The MIB said it petitioned the court seeking “direction on a point of procedure with respect to the disclosure of information on our customers to investigative bodies,” adding that the bank was mindful of obligations to ensure compliance with banking secrecy provisions in the Maldives’ banking law.

“We have no intention whatsoever to hinder the performance of the task entrusted to any investigative body under the law,” the statement continued.

“MIB has and will continue to extend its full cooperation to any and all investigative bodies in carrying out their tasks.”

Following discussions with the ACC, the bank said it has reached “a mutual understanding on the way forward in resolving this issue.”

Informed sources told The Maldives Independent yesterday that requests for financial records from banks should be made by the Maldives Monetary Authority.

“However, in this case it seems that MMA is refusing to officially send the requests in writing as per banking laws. Therefore, MIB is hesitant and cautious of possible legal repercussions of providing the requested information without a firm legal basis, which the civil court will hopefully show,” the source said.

The bank has since withdrawn the case.

MDP MP Ali Azim meanwhile asked the Auditor General’s office on Sunday to confirm whether Yameen has submitted annual financial statements, including details of his bank accounts.

The constitution requires the president to submit annually “a statement of all property and monies owned by him, business interests and all assets and liabilities.”

In response, the president’s spokesperson said in a tweet that the first couple has been regularly paying taxes since 2011 in light of their financial statements.

Muaz’s tweet prompted Jumhooree Party MP Ali Hussain to point out that the constitution prohibits the president from actively engaging in a business.

The constitution states that the president must not be involved in “any other income generating employment, be employed by any person, buy or lease any property belonging to the state, or have a financial interest in any transaction between the state and any other party.”

Referring to the MDP chairperson, Muaz also said that the government will not respond to allegations made “in hiding” by a person who failed to win the support of his constituents.

The former MP had failed to win re-election in the March 2014 parliamentary polls. Ali Waheed fled the country in May last year along with two senior leaders of the Jumhooree Party in the wake of a police crackdown on a mass anti-government demonstration.

He has since been living in self-imposed exile in the UK.

Appearing on the opposition-aligned Raajje TV last week, Waheed also claimed that a local company implicated in the MMPRC corruption scandal had been providing MVR150,000 a month to the first lady’s office.

The money was handed over to the first lady by Abdulla Maumoon, the managing director of the state-owned Maldives Gas company.

But Maumoon told pro-government outlet Avas that former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb had been giving him funds every month to pay salaries for two “trade representatives” residing in Malaysia.

Adeeb was paying the representatives until wages could be arranged through the tourism ministry budget, Maumoon said.

The first lady was not involved in the transaction, he insisted, claiming to have documentary evidence to dispute Ali Waheed’s allegations.

According to a damning audit report of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, some US$70 million was siphoned into the bank account of SOF Pvt Ltd, owned by Mohamed Allam Latheef ‘Moho,’ a close associate of Adeeb.

Following the release of the audit report earlier this month, SOF claimed that it provided a “brokerage” service to the MMPRC and distributed the funds as requested to the first couple, the ruling party, and prominent politicians.

 

Additional reporting by Mohamed Saif Fathih.