The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has renewed allegations about a plot to launder US$1.5 billion in cash through Maldivian banks in 2015.
A preliminary report received Tuesday from forensic accounting firm KRyS Global validates previous media reports, the MDP said in a statement.
The report was based on a “forensic review and analysis of 80,890 messages (phone and encrypted messages)” taken from the phone of former vice president Ahmed Adeeb, which exposed “overwhelming evidence” that the scheme was “planned and coordinated at the most senior levels of President [Abdulla] Yameen’s government.”
It involved depositing cash in US$60 million tranches in a Bank of Maldives account under a cover story of leasing a lagoon for resort development.
The plot was featured in a corruption exposé aired by Al Jazeera in September 2016. Along with a massive scam to steal resort lease payments, the money laundering scheme with “secretive Asian businessmen” was also uncovered from Adeeb’s phones.
According to Al Jazeera’s investigation, the money was to be flown to the Maldives and transferred to a vault at the central bank under the supervision of local soldiers, after which it was to be credited to a private company account and transferred out.
“As they did so, the money would appear to be the cleanly earned profits of a tourism investment.”
The award-winning documentary showed a late-2014 chat log between Adeeb and Dr Azeema Adam, former governor of the central bank, who expressed misgivings but suggested it could be done with evidence showing the source of the funds and legitimacy of earnings.
But the central bank rejected the allegations as lacking “any credible foundation” and insisted that cash cannot be stored in the state vault without the presence and approval of senior officials from four government institutions.
The alleged scheme was “palpably untrue and cannot be substantiated,” it said.
Al Jazeera identified a Singaporean named Tan Kuan Yew as the middleman who “led the communication and helped set up the shell companies.” He was alleged to have sent reports to two Indonesian businessmen.
A fourth businessman involved in the scheme, Faidzan Hassan, told an undercover reporter that he launders money through a central bank in an unnamed Asian country.
It was never established whether the money came into the Maldives as the email and text message trail ended in March 2015. The four Asian businessmen denied any wrongdoing when contacted by Al Jazeera.
– President implicated –
According to the MDP, the report it commissioned from KRyS Global, a Cayman Islands-based asset recovery firm, found the scheme to have “all the earmarks of the primary objectives of criminals who launder money by physically transporting cash across borders.”
The party refused to share a copy of the report with the Maldives Independent. An official said the MDP has a “legal engagement with KRyS Global.”
With the presidential election scheduled for September 23, the money laundering allegations come on the heels of a new report from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) that implicated the president in leasing islands at discounted prices without public tender.
Yameen insisted that the scam “did not reach higher than Adeeb” and claimed he was unaware of the unprecedented theft.
Last Sunday, Yameen acknowledged that he had authorised the transfer of the islands to the tourism ministry under Adeeb.
“In principle, the issue was not with the lease of islands. The issue is what happened to the proceeds. That was not known to the president,” he said.