The former boss of the Maldives’ tourism promotion company pleaded not guilty Saturday to 15 charges related to the country’s largest ever corruption scandal.
Abdulla Ziyath, who managed the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, is accused of misappropriating US$23 million (MVR357 million) by leasing 13 uninhabited islands and two lagoons owned by the state.
He told the court that cheques for the missing money were handed over to then-tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, as directed by the ministry.
Ziyath’s lawyer Ahmed Yameen said the ex-MMPRC boss had been following orders and had not broken any of the organisation’s rules.
Documents proved the money had been deposited to an account belonging to SOF, a local firm implicated in the scandal for funnelling the stolen funds, he said. Depositing the cheques into the SOF account was in violation of MMPRC guidelines, Yameen added.
State prosecutor Abdul Wahhab submitted a list of documents and secret witnesses as evidence. Judge Ali Adam referred to the list and decided to proceed with the case.
The hearing lasted for around six hours, with the judge giving one month to submit pretrial motions.
Ziyath faces a 45-year jail term if convicted of all 15 charges. He is currently serving eight years in jail in connection with the theft of US$5 million from MMPRC.
He is also facing an additional 15 corruption charges related to the MMPRC scandal. A pretrial hearing for the remaining 15 counts is scheduled for Tuesday.
Photo by Mohamed Sharuhan.