President Abdulla Yameen has extended the term of a commission formed to recover stolen assets until November 2018.
The commission was formed for a one-year period in July last year to oversee the recovery of funds flagged as stolen by the Auditor General and the anti-corruption watchdog.
Home Minister Azleen Ahmed, chair of the five-member commission, told the press Tuesday that the state was owed MVR29.7 billion (US$1.9 billion) from various parties, up from the previously floated figure of MVR13 billion.
The amount eclipses the entire state budget for 2018.
The commission has concluded cases worth MVR3.8 billion so far, Azleen added, some of which have been forwarded to the Attorney General and Prosecutor General’s offices.
“Some money has been recovered through the commission’s efforts and some money is at the repayment stage,” he claimed, without disclosing details.
Azleen dismissed criticism that the commission targets the president’s political opponents. The recovered funds could be used for development projects, he said, accusing previous administrations of failing to take action.
The cases before the commission include failed state-owned enterprises Fisheries Projects Implementation Division (FPID) and Air Maldives Limited under former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30-year administration.
The FPID corruption scandal 27 years ago led to the dissolution of the subsidiary of the State Trading Organisation and the formation of Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company.
Air Maldives, the first national carrier of the country, declared bankruptcy in 2000 after incurring losses estimated at US$50-70 million, amid allegations of mismanagement and corruption.
The commission is also trying to recover nearly US$80 million stolen from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation under the current administration’s watch.
The embezzlement of resort lease payments and other funds from the state-owned MMPRC was the biggest corruption scandal in Maldivian history.
Asked if the commission was looking into corruption cases in the present government, Azleen said: “Corruption belonging to this government hasn’t come to us. There isn’t any corruption that belongs to any government. It’s the people who carry out the corruption that it belongs to, isn’t that so?”