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Diamonds are forever: ‘Bribery’ MP hailed as gem by Maldives president

The MP admitted to carrying ‘sacks of money’ to the opposition.



A ruling coalition MP who once admitted to bribery and called for the Maldives opposition to be exterminated was Wednesday likened to a gem by President Abdulla Yameen.

MP Mohamed Ismail was a lawmaker who understood the needs of his constituents and worked hard for them, Yameen said at a rally held in Ismail’s Hoarafushi constituency.

In April 2017 police launched a probe into an admission of bribery by Ismail, who claimed that he carried “sacks of money” to opposition MPs.

“I carried and distributed the money, and they all took it,” he said in 2016 during a heated parliament debate relating to the embezzlement of nearly US$80 million from the state-owned tourism promotion company.

But the bribery admission – together with Ismail’s calls last October to exterminate the Maldivian Democratic Party – have not troubled the president.

Yameen thanked the people of Hoarafushi for the arrangements made for his visit and “member Mohamed Ismail who is like a pink diamond.”

“Mohamed Ismail has worked according to the wants and needs of the people of this island. God willing, we are trying to solve your problems,” he said.

His remarks came after Ismail expressed gratitude to Yameen for approving a project to build an airport near Hoarafushi.

Ismail told supporters he was “very afraid and hesitant” when he asked the president for an airport and that he received “a perfect green signal” from Yameen. He was unable to sleep that night due to feelings of exhilaration, Ismail said.

Despite the outrage caused by his bribery admission, Ismail told a private TV station he stood by what he said in parliament.“Had I known that the money was an act of corruption, I would not have taken upon it,” he told the broadcaster DhiTV at the time.

Ismail said he thought the money could have been a loan from the vice president.

“All I know is that Adeeb handed over the money [to me]. I took the money to them [opposition MPs]. I didn’t know at all that it was state funds or anything else,” he said.

A week after launching the probe, police decided not to pursue the case saying that the anti-corruption watchdog was investigating.

But several opposition MPs remain in police custody until the end of their trials on bribery, while opposition leader Gasim Ibrahim was sentenced to three years in jail after being found guilty of attempted bribery.