A private screening of an Al Jazeera film exposing corruption at the highest levels of the Maldivian government was held at a high security prison for former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb on Thursday.
Adeeb, who is serving a 33-year jail sentence on corruption and terror charges, was one of the main subjects of the investigative film, ‘Stealing Paradise.’ The documentary was based on evidence gathered from Adeeb’s three mobile phones.
His lawyer confirmed that Anti-Corruption Commission officials questioned Adeeb at the Maafushi Jail.
The investigators asked “general questions” about secretly filmed confessions by three of Adeeb’s associates featured in the exposé about delivering stolen cash to the president.
ACC Vice President Muaviz Rasheed told the Maldives Independent that Adeeb fully cooperated with the ACC and answered the questions put to him.
“We are not revealing to the media exactly what he was questioned about,” he said.
The ACC previously said the new inquiry will further delay its investigation into the theft of nearly US$80 million from the state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation – a corruption scandal of unprecedented scale in Maldivian history.
Muaviz said the ACC did not set itself a deadline and plans to release a 600-page report as soon as possible. “The investigation was almost complete when the Al Jazeera documentary came out and we decided some things needed to be added,” he said.
The documentary used data from Adeeb’s phones to show how the proceeds from illegally leasing islands for resort development were pocketed; the bribery of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed; and a plot to launder US$1.5 billion in cash through the Maldives central bank.
A credible source told the Maldives Independent that the ACC has also questioned the central bank’s governor Dr Azeema Adam.
The documentary featured a conversation about the money laundering scheme between Adeeb and Azeema, who expressed misgivings but suggested that it could be done with evidence showing the source of the funds and legitimacy of earnings.
The MMPRC corruption scandal first surfaced in November 2014, but was not investigated until Adeeb’s arrest, a year later, on suspicion of plotting to assassinate the President Abdulla Yameen, who then accused his deputy of using stolen funds to bribe the police and military.
The ACC probe was launched shortly thereafter.
According to a damning audit report released in early February, US$65 million from resort lease payments were funnelled into private companies linked to Adeeb.
The bulk of the stolen funds was deposited into the bank account of SOF Pvt Ltd, owned by Mohamed Allam Latheef ‘Moho,’ who later said the money was distributed to the first couple, the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives, and senior politicians.
The documentary shows Moho and two others – who fled the country before Adeeb’s arrest in October – confessing to carrying the stolen cash to Yameen and others.
Yameen has denied any wrongdoing, claiming the graft did not reach higher than his former right-hand man. The government has also dismissed the Al Jazeera documentary as “defamatory and biased”.
In July, the ACC also questioned Adeeb about large sums deposited to the president’s account at the Maldives Islamic Bank.
Shortly after the MMPRC special audit was released, the opposition claimed it had evidence that some US$500,000 from the stolen funds was deposited in Yameen’s account at the MIB on October 12.
The Maldivian Democratic Party previously published a slip of the transaction. The Maldives Islamic Bank at first refused to disclose details of Yameen’s bank account, but later shared the information with the ACC.
Former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim, who lost his job in 2014 after flagging corruption at the MMPRC, has meanwhile questioned the ability of “systematically paralysed” watchdog institutions to investigate grand corruption in the Maldives.