The embezzlement of US$5 million paid for leasing the island of Maabinhura in Lhaviyani atoll was carried out on the instructions of detained former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, state prosecutors told the criminal court today.
A hearing took place this afternoon in the corruption trial of Hamid Ismail, an influential businessman related to the former vice president.
Presenting the case against Hamid, the state prosecutor said that Abdulla Ziyath, ex-managing director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, followed Adeeb’s instructions and deposited the US$5 million cheque into the account of Hamid’s Millenium Capital Holdings.
Some US$2.3 million was then transferred to the account of Montillion Pvt Ltd – a company previously owned by Adeeb before he transferred his shares to his father in March 2012 – the prosecutor said.
Adeeb, Ziyath, and Hamid are on trial for multiple counts of corruption over the theft of nearly US$80 million from the state-owned MMPRC – a corruption scandal of unprecedented scale in Maldivian history.
A damning audit report released in early February implicated Adeeb and his associates in siphoning off US$65 million collected by the MMPRC as acquisition costs from leasing islands, lagoons and plots of land for tourism.
Hisham Wajeeh, spokesperson of the Prosecutor General’s office, told The Maldives Independent that Adeeb had also notified an employee at Hamid’s company after the money was deposited.
Hamid’s lawyer told the court today that he is not prepared to answer charges as the defence have only been provided with a summary of the charges and three witness statements.
But the prosecutor said all the case documents have been submitted to the court, which will be shared with defence lawyers soon.
Citing health problems, Hamid’s lawyer also requested the judge to transfer him from remand detention to house arrest, claiming that the prisons authority was refusing to take him to see a doctor.
The judge said he would summon officials from the Maldives Correctional Services before ruling on the request.
A hearing in Ziyath’s corruption trial scheduled for yesterday was meanwhile called off as his lawyer was on leave.
Adeeb is also on trial on a terrorism charge over the alleged possession of a pistol. The 33-year-old is also facing prosecution on a total of 50 counts of abuse of authority over the MMPRC corruption scandal.
He was arrested in late October on suspicion of plotting to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen with a bomb on the presidential speedboat.
Adeeb was meanwhile abruptly transferred from the high-security Maafushi prison to the police detention centre on the island of Dhoonidhoo last week.
The criminal court ordered Adeeb’s transfer from the remand facility on Dhoonidhoo to Maafushi jail in late January. The island of Dhoonidhoo is 15 minutes by speedboat from the capital while Maafushi is an hour away.
Adeeb has pledged support to the main opposition since his arrest. The Maldivian Democratic Party claims it has evidence of government involvement in terrorism financing, bribery and money laundering, a claim promptly dismissed by the government.
The MDP said some of the evidence was gathered from Adeeb’s personal laptops.