Gasim Abdul Kareem, the whistle-blower found guilty of leaking documents revealing how tens of millions of dollars of public money was stolen by a private company, was freed on Thursday.
The former Bank of Maldives official, 50, was handed an eight month and 12 day jail sentence for data theft and illegal disclosure on Tuesday, but was released on Thursday as he has spent nearly nine months in pre-trial detention.
He had spent two nights in a jail in Malé.
“Take risks for the sake of this nation. I have done my part,” Gasim told Raajje TV on leaving the Malé Jail on Thursday.
Gasim won widespread praise for bringing to light how the bulk of some US$80million stolen from the state-owned tourism promotion firm, the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, was siphoned off through a private company linked to the former vice president’s associates.
Leaked screenshots of bank transactions by SOF Pvt Ltd show that President Abdulla Yameen may also have benefitted from the stolen money. An SOF check worth US$500,000 was deposited to the president’s private bank account at the Maldives Islamic Bank, according to the records shared by Gasim.
A spokesman for the president has denied any wrongdoing.
Gasim was among four nominees shortlisted for Transparency International’s anti-corruption award this year.
Supporters have condemned his sentencing, noting that only a handful of those involved in the Maldives’ biggest ever corruption scandal have been prosecuted so far.
In March, a ruling party MP admitted in parliament that he bribed opposition MPs with the stolen money. In addition to lawmakers, judges and senior government officials are thought to have received the stolen money.
Although a year has passed since the Anti Corruption Commission launched an investigation into the scandal, the commission is yet to share its findings. The auditor general’s report into the theft shows that some US$80million was stolen from the MMPRC, but makes no effort to trace where the money ended up.
According to the special audit, some US$65.01 million collected as acquisition costs from leasing islands, lagoons and plots of land for tourism was diverted into private bank accounts.
The bulk of the stolen funds was deposited into the Bank of Maldives account of SOF Pvt Ltd, owned by Mohamed Allam Latheef ‘Moho,’ a close associate of jailed former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb.
SOF later said it provided a “brokerage” service to the MMPRC and diverted the funds to the first couple and ruling party members.
According to the records Gasim had leaked, SOF opened an account at the Bank of Maldives on May 12, 2014. Some US$84million was rolled through its accounts between May 2014 and October 2015.
Photo by Raajje TV