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Anti-graft watchdog launches probe into Fenaka scandal

The Anti Corruption Comission is looking into abuse of power by Fenaka officials in the apparent embezzlement of some US$1million from the state-owned utility.



The Anti-Corruption Commission has launched an inquiry into the theft of US$1million from the state-owned utility, Fenaka Corporation.

Muaviz Rasheed, the ACC vice president, said the watchdog was probing possible abuse of power by Fenaka officials in the foreign exchange transaction, local media report.

The state utility reportedly released MVR17 million to a local company to purchase dollars at the rate of MVR15.42 to a dollar. Fenaka was to receive the amount in dollars within 30 days, but the three-dollar cheques made out to the company with an invalid Mauritius Commercial Bank guarantee stamp bounced.

In a similar scam, more than US$6million was stolen from the state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation in 2014 and 2015. The amount is part of the nearly US$80million was stolen from the tourism firm, in what has come to be known as the country’s biggest ever corruption scandal.

The police have arrested one of the shareholders of the company involved in the Fenaka scam – which is said to provide speedboat transfer services – but have not disclosed any information about the investigation so far.

Mihaaru, a local newspaper, has alleged the involvement of politicians in the scandal, but said a recent law criminalising defamation prevents it from revealing their names. It is not clear when the scam took place.

Mohamed Nimal, the company’s managing director, was sacked two weeks after Mihaaru published its report, and replaced with former lawmaker, Ahmed Shareef Adam.

Shareef told reporters on Thursday that the company’s board had approved the sale of the MVR17million, as the company was in dire need of foreign currency for its projects.

Fenaka presently provides electricity services for more than 150 out of the Maldives’ 188 inhabited islands.

Shareef said: “The transaction went according to procedures set by the board.

“One of the main challenges to our projects is obtaining dollars. We are unable to proceed with one of our projects because we haven’t been able to obtain US$172,000. The government has pledged to address this.”

Shareef was also appointed to the MMRC board after President Abdulla Yameen publicly acknowledged the scandal nearly a year ago.

Shareef’s predecessor, Nimal, who also sits on national council of the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives, was sacked once before by former President Mohamed Waheed amid allegations of abuse of power. He was later re-appointed after Yameen assumed office.

Meanwhile, in June this year, the Maldives Roads Development Corporation’s managing director was transferred to a political post despite pending corruption charges over an MVR1 million (US$64,850) loss incurred by the state-owned company. Ibrahim Nazeem was appointed the housing ministry’s deputy minister amid a reshuffle of the heads of state-owned companies.