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Bank of Maldives loses bid to withhold information from corruption probe

The civil court refused to grant a stay order.

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The civil court on Monday refused to grant a stay order to allow Bank of Maldives staff to withhold information from the presidential commission on corruption and asset recovery. 

The national bank sought the order pending a judgment in its lawsuit against the commission.

The injunction would have protected staff from legal action over refusal to cooperate with a probe into the theft of MVR1.4 billion (US$90 million) from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, a corruption scandal of unprecedented scale in the country’s history.

Citing rules set by the Supreme Court, judicial regulations and principles of equity, Judge Abdulla Ali ruled that the bank’s petition did not fit any circumstance that warranted issuing stay orders.

Since the petition sought an order to exempt a party from legal responsibility, issuing a stay order would also result in making a judgment on the case, the judge said.

The presidential commission has not taken any action apart from warning the bank, the judge noted.

The Bank of Maldives contends that a court order is required for it to share information with an investigative body.

The petition cited a High Court ruling in March that lifted a freeze on former president Abdulla Yameen’s bank accounts. According to the ruling, the lower court order to freeze Yameen’s accounts contravened the criminal procedures code, which stipulates that a freeze order could only be issued on the basis of incriminating evidence uncovered through a bank account monitoring order.

Earlier this month, the Anti-Corruption Commission intervened in the Bank of Maldives lawsuit against the presidential commission as a third party in the case.

Along with a commission to investigate unresolved murders, the stolen asset recovery commission was formed on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s first day in office last November.

A law granting investigative powers to presidential commissions was passed in June after Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party won a two-thirds majority in parliament. Solih’s administration was previously unable to get the bill passed due to opposition from the MDP’s coalition partners.

Ratified on June 24, the Presidential Commissions Act grants powers to seek search and arrest warrants, question suspects and subpoena documents and evidence.

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