Maldives President Abdulla Yameen counted cash siphoned off from island deals inside his home, his jailed former deputy said Sunday as he denied corruption charges in court.
Ex-vice president Ahmed Adeeb faces ten counts of illicit enrichment involving islands leased through the state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Company (MMPRC).
A special audit revealed over US$80 million was embezzled through MMPRC, mostly from acquisition fees through leasing islands, lagoons and plots of land. It is the biggest graft case in the history of the Maldives.
Adeeb is being charged under the 2002 Anti-Corruption Act.
“In 2012 and 2013 when I was in the tourism ministry, the lease fees from island deals were being deposited to MIRA (the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority).
“It was the president who changed it in 2014, he decided to deposit the money to MMPRC,” Avas quoted him as saying.
“I was the man put in charge of running our economy in 2014 and 2015, I ran the country,” Adeeb told the court. “I did a lot of work in the economic council. (The China Maldives Friendship) Bridge and Hulhumalé Phase Two is my work.
“Even if I’m in a small cell in jail, I’m happy that bridge is getting completed. I worked sincerely for my country.”
Yameen tasked Adeeb with running the country and resigned himself to “counting dollars,” Adeeb said.
– Stealing Paradise –
The acquisition fees deposited to the MMPRC account were transferred to other companies’ accounts and then withdrawn as cash. The cash was taken to Yameen’s home, he said.
“They counted the cash at that house. The president himself counted it with a Bangladeshi worker in a room inside his home. US$80 million was taken into the house this way.”
Two men were filmed confessing to carrying bags of cash to Yameen’s residence in the Al Jazeera documentary Stealing Paradise.
A spokesman from the President’s Office, Ibrahim Muaz Ali, said: “The president will not comment on what dangerous convicts say in the courtroom.”
Adeeb said he was being charged to hide the theft.
He had been warned not to talk about it and that “something bad might happen in jail” if he did, the court heard.
“I won’t confess to something I didn’t do, even if I have to waste away as a corpse on a concrete bed. I won’t confess even if my eyes are blinded by denying me medical care.”
Adeeb denied eight of the ten charges involving the lease of R. Raafushi, N. Maakanaafushi, B. Maduvvari, ADh. Innafushi, R. Uthurumaafaru, Th. Ekurifushi, B. Landhoo and two lagoons from Malé atoll leased for 50 years.
His lawyer Moosa Siraj argued that the remaining two charges could not be brought under the Anti-Corruption Act as this legislation was implemented after the Penal Code came into effect.
The Penal Code carries a lesser sentence for the same crime.
Prosecutors said the Penal Code would be referred to in sentencing, even if the charges stemmed from the Anti-Corruption Act.
Judge Adam Arif said he would rule on whether to proceed with these two charges in the next hearing.