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Assistant governor resigns after president withdraws nomination

Neeza Imad, the assistant governor of the Maldives central bank, resigned Sunday after President Abdulla Yameen withdrew her nomination to replace the outgoing governor.



Neeza Imad, the assistant governor of the Maldives central bank, resigned Sunday after President Abdulla Yameen withdrew her nomination to replace the outgoing governor.

Yameen withdrew Neeza’s name and proposed Ahmed Naseer for parliamentary approval. The withdrawal of her nomination suggested “a lack of trust” by the government, Neeza told local media on her resignation after 31 years at the Maldives Monetary Authority.

The president’s office did not disclose reasons for the change.

Naseer previously worked at the MMA and went on to serve as CEO of the Capital Market Development Authority. He was also briefly state minister of finance under the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party government before resigning in late 2011.

Naseer, a pioneer of the burgeoning mid-market tourism sector with the first guesthouse on the island of Maafushi, was working as a consultant for the finance ministry on a World Bank project.

The MMA’s former governor, Dr Azeema Adam, stepped down last week to relocate to New York with her husband, who recently took up the posts of permanent representative to the United Nations and ambassador to the United States.

During her three-year tenure, Azeema faced criticism over the failure to take action over the theft of nearly US$80 million from the state-owned tourism promotion firm, which was funnelled into private bank accounts in large amounts.

Following the parliament’s approval of Azeema’s husband, former Foreign Secretary Dr Ali Naseer Mohamed, as the new permanent representative to UN in June 2016, the opposition alleged that the president nominated him to allow the couple to flee the country.

The governor was also accused of involvement in money laundering and facilitating the embezzlement from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, allegations that she strongly denied.

The anti-money laundering law requires the MMA’s Financial Intelligence Unit to look into unusually large transactions and all unusual patterns of transactions. But the MMPRC case went unreported until former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s arrest in October 2015.

Since the MMPRC corruption scandal was laid bare in a damning audit report in February 2016, Yameen has maintained that his former deputy was solely responsible for the unprecedented theft from state coffers.

In September last year, Al Jazeera’s award-winning investigative unit meanwhile uncovered a plot to launder US$1.5 billion in cash through the MMA.

The Qatari network’s Stealing Paradise documentary showed a conversation between Adeeb and Azeema, who expressed misgivings but suggested that it could be done with evidence showing the source of the funds and legitimacy of earnings.

A day after the exposé was aired, the central bank rejected the allegations as lacking “any credible foundation” and denied being contacted for comment. The MMA insisted that cash cannot be stored in the state vault without the presence and approval of senior officials from four government institutions.

The alleged money laundering scheme is “palpably untrue and cannot be substantiated,” it added, urging the media to refrain from “spreading baseless allegations which can damage public trust that is crucial in maintaining confidence in the country’s financial sector.”