President sets up commission for asset recovery

President sets up commission for asset recovery
July 20 18:35 2017

President Abdulla Yameen has formed a commission to oversee the recovery of state assets flagged by the Auditor General’s office and the anti-corruption watchdog as misused or stolen.

Home Minister Ahmed Azleen was appointed as chair of the five-member State Assets Recovery Commission along with President’s Office Minister Mohamed Muhthaz, Khadeeja Hussain, Dr Ibrahim Mahfooz, and Mohamed Saleem.

Briefing the press at the president’s office Thursday morning, Attorney General Mohamed Anil said the commission is tasked with reviewing cases highlighted by the oversight institutions as well as the recovery efforts to date.

“The commission will have the discretion and power to send cases to the finance ministry where action is required to recover funds as well as to the Attorney General’s office to pursue civil litigation,” he said.

The commission can summon people for questioning and seek criminal prosecution, he added.

Anil said the SARC was formed for a one-year period to recover “hundreds of millions of Rufiyaa owed to the state” after deliberations at Monday’s cabinet meeting.

The commission will periodically update the president as well as the Prosecutor General, Auditor General, and the Anti-Corruption Commission.

The Auditor General’s office has released numerous reports of ministries and government agencies flagging the misuse or theft of state funds since the office was set up as an independent oversight body in 2008. But the total amount owed to the state is unclear.

In August last year, the finance ministry ordered former President Mohamed Nasheed and six senior officials of his administration to repay “misused” government funds.

The seven were told to reimburse the treasury within seven days or face lawsuits. Anil told the press in late June that two of the former officials have since settled their debts whilst the state will pursue litigation against the rest.

Last week, a lawsuit was filed against Nasheed’s former housing and environment minister Mohamed Aslam to recover MVR312,928 (US$20,294) he had used on mobile phone bills.

Anil also said efforts are underway to recover nearly US$80 million stolen from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation under the current administration’s watch.

The embezzlement of resort lease payments and other funds from the state-owned MMPRC was the biggest corruption scandal in Maldivian history.