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Graft charges sought against Gayoom-era minister

The anti-graft watchdog wants to retrieve around US$2 million from a decade-old corruption case.



Graft charges are being sought against a former state minister in connection with a decade-old case, the Anti-Corruption Commission said Wednesday, as it was criticised for giving him anonymity and for the delay in the investigation.

A project to distribute Dhivehi language copies of the Quran to all Maldivians was undertaken in 2007, but failed when printed copies were found to have typos and printing errors. The company tasked with the project was also unable to deliver the promised number of copies.

An agreement was signed between the finance ministry and the private company to deliver 150,000 copies at a rate of MVR 207 ($13.21) per copy, the ACC said.

The last 15 percent of the total project cost was to be paid when the company delivered all the copies, but an unnamed state finance minister violated the agreement and a letter from the President’s Office by signing a memo giving clearance for payment.

The company failed to deliver 98,160 copies, according to the letter. The minister confessed to signing the memo, the ACC said, and accused him of providing undue benefit to the company.

But the ACC information officer refused to comment on the identity of the former state minister, who served under former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, when contacted by the Maldives Independent.

The anti-graft watchdog has issued directives to the finance ministry and Attorney General’s office to begin retrieving the MVR 30.8 million paid to the company which is calculated as the total loss to the state.

Aiman Rasheed from the NGO Transparency Maldives was unimpressed.

“There is no reason why the ACC should maintain the anonymity of the minister without a valid reason. The ACC has in the past disclosed the person who has allegedly committed an act of corruption.”

He also condemned the length of the investigation.

“The case should not have taken this long for the investigation process to conclude considering clear documentary evidence, but the delay in conducting the investigation should not be an excuse for prosecutors to not proceed with the case.”

On Tuesday the ACC blamed the Prosecutor General’s office and other state institutions for the difficulties in getting cases to court, saying there was a lack of cooperation and coordination.