Former vice president Ahmed Adeeb has pledged to honour a cooperation agreement signed with the authorities to reveal information about the country’s biggest corruption scandal.
Adeeb was detained on Monday for fleeing the Maldives in defiance of a travel ban imposed by the Supreme Court. He also violated the cooperation agreement with the failed attempt to flee, police told the criminal court to seek an order to keep him in custody.
The 37-year-old was brought back to the country after Indian authorities held him for questioning when he arrived at the Tuticorin port – where he was denied entry despite seeking asylum – and handed him over to the Maldives police at the maritime border.
Contrary to media reports, Adeeb’s lawyer Mahfooz Saeed said his client did not sign a plea deal with Prosecutor General’s office in accordance with the criminal procedures law, which allows leniency for defendants who confess and cooperate.
Adeeb signed a cooperation agreement two months ago to provide information about the theft of MVR1.4 billion (US$90 million) from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation during the previous administration, his lawyer explained.
“Adeeb wants to continue with the agreement despite the recent events if the state is also willing to do the same,” Mahfooz told the Maldives Independent.
According to the lawyer, Adeeb has given 16 interviews to the police, each of which lasted four hours or more.
“This shows his commitment to respect the agreement,” Mahfooz said.
According to media reports about Adeeb’s remand hearing on Monday – where a judge ordered his detention for 15 days – Adeeb accused the Prosecutor General’s office of violating the cooperation agreement.
He reportedly confessed to his role in the MMPRC embezzlement scheme and claimed to have provided details about how the money was stolen and laundered.
The beneficiaries of the stolen funds included people in high offices of the state, including ministers, judges and lawmakers, he told the court.
Adeeb claimed he was forced to flee in the face of threats from the top officials he exposed.
“I took the decision because I received threats and because my life was in danger,” he was quoted as saying.
– MMPRC scandal –
The MMPRC embezzlement scheme was a corruption scandal of unprecedented scale in Maldivian history. It was exposed in a damning audit report released in February 2016, which implicated Adeeb and his associates in siphoning off fees paid to lease islands and lagoons for resort development.
After serving three years in prison for convictions in one case of the MMPRC scandal and an alleged plot to assassinate former president Abdulla Yameen, Adeeb was transferred to house arrest in the wake of his former mentor’s defeat in September’s presidential election.
In late May, Adeeb walked out of court an innocent man after his 33-year combined sentence on terrorism and corruption charges was quashed by the appeal courts, which cited political influence and ordered retrials.
But the Supreme Court ordered immigration to hold his passport after the Prosecutor General filed an appeal. The PG challenged a High Court ruling that set aside his conviction over the theft of US$5 million paid by Kuredu Holdings for the island of Maabinhuraa in Lhaviyani Atoll.
The appeal hearings began on Tuesday morning and prosecutors reportedly sought an order to keep Adeeb in custody until the apex court reached a decision.
Adeeb’s attempt to flee proved he was a flight risk, prosecutors said.
But Adeeb, who appeared without legal counsel, argued that there was no reason for another detention order as he was presently in custody at a remand facility.
He also contended that the cooperation agreement proves the investigation of the Maabinhuraa case was incomplete.
According to the prosecution, the acquisition fee paid for the island was embezzled through Millenium Capital Management and Montillion Pvt Ltd, two companies with links to Adeeb’s family.
Responding to Adeeb, prosecutors told the court that the cooperation agreement explicitly excluded the Maabinhuraa case, and referred to a High Court decision to uphold the conviction of Adeeb’s co-defendant Abdulla Ziyath over the embezzlement of the acquisition fee.
Ziyath was the former managing director of the MMPRC.
A three-judge panel of the apex court bench – comprised of Chief Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi, Justice Abdulla Areef and Justice Abdul Ghanee Mohamed – said they would consider the PG office request to order Adeeb’s detention for the duration of appeal hearings.
Following his transfer to house arrest last November, the appeal decisions that quashed Adeeb’s convictions came after he was named as a key witness in former president Abdulla Yameen’s money laundering trial.