A top judge tried to arrange funding for the purchase of a lakefront villa in Malaysia, it has been claimed, as more secret statements from a police probe into an alleged coup plot were leaked online.
Leading local businessman Ibrahim Athif told police in a statement that Justice Ali Hameed tried to arrange funding for him and was later interested — along with Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and judicial administrator Hassan Saeed — in purchasing their own villas.
Police have confirmed the leaked statements are authentic, but the contents cannot be independently verified.
The leaks describe events that took place following a February 1 Supreme Court order for the release of President Abdulla Yameen’s opponents and feature allegations of bribery, with Judges Mohamed Haleem and Adam Arif also testifying about being “influenced” to issue rulings.
The two top judges and the judicial administrator are alleged to be part of a plot to overthrow the government. The chief justice and Hameed are on trial for a number of charges. They deny the charges against them.
The seven-page statement signed by Athif, owner of the Lemongrass restaurant chain, tells how his “brother-like friend Hameed” tried to help find a private lender to pay for the luxury villa worth more than US$860,000.
“I asked Hameed to help me through one of his acquaintances, but he could not do it,” he said, according to the statement.
Hameed, along with Saeed and Hassan, decided to purchase the new villas after going to see one of them with Athif during a visit to Malaysia last November.
“We found out there were four more villas on sale so they wanted to make a deal,” reads Athif’s statement. “The Malaysian agent Adam promised to give a discount if they take all four villas. I called my friend ACC president Hassan Luthfy and he agreed to buy the fourth one.”
But Luthfy, who is facing calls for his resignation, pulled out of the deal in January “because he did not have enough money”.
“PPM deputy leader Abdul Raheem joined us for dinner that night in an Arab restaurant in Cyberjaya… I also helped [PPM] MP Ibrahim Riza meet Hameed when he visited Malaysia in January,” Athif added.
Athif also told police about a meeting between the justices and a businessman involved with Cartunes, a vehicle and spare part company. He said they did not talk politics or money during the brief meeting.
He claimed to not know anything about the justices’ payment for the villas and denied ever having heard the duo discuss a coup plot or a Supreme Court order.
— ‘This is nauseating’ —
The judiciary, police and independent institutions have drawn fire following the leaks, with some seeing it as proof they lack integrity.
“Adhurey took part in ‘that trip’ supposedly to Malaysia,” lawyer Mahfooz Saeed tweeted referring to Yameen loyalist MP Abdul Raheem, whose name came up in Athif’s statement.
“Where did Luthfy get such wealth to try to buy a luxury apartment from Malaysia? What is this?! ACC must investigate this,” MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said.
“This is nauseating; that people heading independent institutions give secret depositions; that they implicitly confess to having partisan loyalties, that they confess to issuing warnings to judges… I can’t imagine a greater tragedy that the state of affairs these leaks reveal,” former attorney general Dhiyana Saeed tweeted.
“It is not permissible for Muslims to give false testimonies in court of law. We are in need of building a generation that fears Allah,” MP Anara Naeem said.
Police spokesman Ahmed Shifan was not responding to calls, but last week he threatened action against the “influential suspects” who were “using their power to influence the ongoing trials” by leaking the statements.
The leaks come at a busy time for the criminal court, which is holding hearings on separate charges of terrorism and obstruction for the justices and key politicians.
On Saturday two anonymous witnesses testified that Saeed and Hameed influenced others to issue rulings, local media reported.
A witness, who appeared to be Judge Haleem, accused Hameed of changing one of his rulings while the other witness, believed to be Judge Areef, said the two justices had asked him to issue orders to release detained politicians following the February 1 ruling.
The concluding statements of the trial are to be heard Tuesday and a verdict is expected soon.
The charge of influencing official conduct carries a jail sentence of more than nine months.