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Money laundering charges raised against ex-president Yameen

Yameen is accused of using US$1 million from a company implicated in the country’s biggest corruption scandal.



The Prosecutor General’s office on Wednesday pressed money laundering charges against former president Abdulla Yameen.

The case has been filed at the criminal court, the PG office tweeted. Under the 2014 anti-money laundering law, the offence carries a prison sentence between five to 15 years or a fine of up to MVR1 million (US$64,850).  

Yameen is accused of using money stolen from state coffers, police said last week, after wrapping up investigations and forwarding cases for prosecution. 

Separate charges were sought over alleged false testimony to the Anti-Corruption Commission during its investigation into the theft of US$90 million from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation.

Yameen was questioned in December over US$1 million deposited to his personal account by SOF, a local company that was used to funnel resort acquisition fees paid to the MMPRC.

“The SOF company which benefited from the funds stolen from MMPRC deposited US$1 million to Yameen’s account at the Maldives Islamic Bank. Yameen was ordered to return the state funds, but the investigation found that he had profited by not handing over the money and by carrying out transactions,” police said.

Yameen denies any wrongdoing. Last week, his legal team dismissed the charges as an attempt to influence the April 6 parliamentary elections.

“The ACC has so far been unable to prove that the US$1 million transferred to Yameen’s account in MIB by the SOF company was state funds earned through corruption,” lawyers contended in a statement.

“While SOF is a company that has carried out many businesses in Maldives and many Maldivian companies and individuals have done financial transactions with the company, there has been no investigation or criminal charges against them,” they noted.

After he was summoned for questioning in early January, Yameen defended an agreement made in March last year to keep the money in an escrow account formed with the ACC.

But the money handed over to the ACC-held account was not the US$1 million from SOF, he told reporters, admitting to having transferred it to an investment account at the Islamic Bank.

He later obtained a US$1 million cheque from former tourism minister Moosa Zameer and deposited it to the ACC account at the Bank of Maldives, Yameen said.

There should be no problem “as one million for one million was deposited to the escrow account,” he insisted. Zameer was paid in local currency to buy the dollars, which was “very clean money.”

Yameen said police were “picking a procedural point.”

“I transferred the money according to the agreement. In my mind, it is done. That money is there, one million dollars is there. Even with a procedural point, they could have brought it up all these days,” he said. 

Yameen’s former legal affairs minister Aishath Azima Shukoor is also facing charges of lying to the authorities and assisting with money laundering. It is unclear whether the PG office has raised charges against her. 

Weeks after he left office, the former strongman’s bank accounts were frozen with more than MVR100 million (US$6.5 million) in US dollars and local currency as police launched a probe into campaign contributions and the US$1 million from SOF.