The former owner of Vaguthu has alleged that he was coerced into transferring ownership of the pro-government news website by a group of men acting on orders from Vice President Ahmed Adeeb.
Musharraf Hassan filed a complaint with the police last night.
Hassan told The Maldives Independent today that Hassan Abdulla, chief operating officer of Vaguthu, and Ismail Shafraz, marketing manager, took him to a house in the Henveiru ward of Malé on September 7, falsely claiming that it was for a meeting with Adeeb.
“A man in his early twenties was seated on the couch. He told me that he was speaking on behalf of Adeeb and MMPRC [Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation] Managing Director Abdulla Ziyath and immediately demanded that I hand over shares of Vaguthu,” he said.
Hassan said he was told to sign a document for transferring his shares in Vaguthu to Mohamed Shiyam, of Haa Alif atoll Muraidhoo Vaijeheyge, for MVR1 million (US$64,850).
“They said if I don’t sign it, I’ll have to meet the same fate as [missing journalist Ahmed] Rilwan. After repeated threats I signed the documents under coercion,” he said.
“I refused to believe that Adeeb would do such a thing, so I did inform Adeeb about the matter, asked him about it on Viber and through family contacts, but there was no response.”
The Maldives Independent was unable to reach senior staff at Vaguthu for a response to the allegations.
Hassan also claimed that fake documents had been submitted in his name to local telcos Ooredoo and Dhiraagu to change the ownership of Vaguthu hotlines and the website’s domain name.
A police media official confirmed that a complaint was filed, but declined to reveal further details as the case was under investigation.
“The influence of Adeeb in affairs of the Maldivian state casts a shadow on hopes that the authorities will properly investigate the matter,” Hassan said, adding that he would file lawsuits if the police investigation yielded no result.
Adeeb, who also owns the news website Avas, has previously denied allegations of links to criminal gangs.
The vice president appeared on TV last night to reiterate his unwavering loyalty to President Abdulla Yameen, and denounced speculation of his involvement in an explosion on the presidential speedboat on September 28.
Ibrahim Umar Manik, the chairman of state broadcaster Public Service Media, now heads Avas and pro-government private TV station Channel 13.