Former MP Abdulla Jabir has denied paying MVR10 million (US$648,500) to President Abdulla Yameen to influence the outcome of his trial in early 2014 after the opposition-aligned station Raajje TV aired a phone conversation between the resort businessmen and then-Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb.
In the leaked audio, Jabir is heard saying that Yameen had instructed him to call Adeeb to speak to the police chief about his case.
“I want you to tell [criminal court chief judge Abdulla Mohamed] not to mess with me. How much do you need to manage this? What should I do? The money is with me. Yameen says Adeeb is my brother,” Jabir is heard saying to an agreeable Adeeb.
The audio clip was leaked by main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party Chairperson Ali Waheed during an interview on Monday night. The conversation appears to have been recorded in 2013, before Jabir was sentenced to one year in prison in February 2014 for refusing to provide a urine sample to the police.
He was pardoned by Yameen five months later.
But the former MP for Kaashidhoo told newspaper Haveeru yesterday that the allegation of bribery was an “absolute lie.”
Jabir said he had not heard the clip, but claimed to have been threatened by Adeeb while he was chair of the parliament’s public accounts committee in 2012. The oversight committee was investigating reports of Adeeb’s corruption at the time.
In the leaked conversation, Jabir is heard telling Adeeb that he has the cash safe in his drawer. He reiterates the amount several times in the course of the incriminating conversation.
“Yameen called me… Banks opened yesterday. I have withdrawn MVR10million and kept it in my safe. I have all the money Yameen wants. Would my wife want me to go to jail?” Jabir says.
“What can I do for you?” asks Adeeb.
“Adeeb, you tell me which resort I would want if I’m sitting in jail?”
The former minister laughs and says: “Jail… you wouldn’t have to go jail.”
“Why don’t we correct that then? Everything will be settled then. I am a very close friend of Yameen’s,” Jabir said.
In reply, Adheeb is heard saying that he “is going to start working on it now.”
Jabir names the judge presiding over his case as Judge Muhthaz Fahmy, and complains that the judge spoke harshly.
He also says that the president calls Adeeb his “brother.”
“You are his beloved. Why does Yameen love you so much, Adeeb?” he asked. Adeeb responds that it is because he “gets the job done.”
Jabir adds that he has no issue with the phone call being recorded.
“I would give any money I have to you, Adeeb. What is the problem here? I have never had a corruption case with you or Yameen. I can give my money to anyone I want at any time. I have withdrawn MVR10million to gift to Yameen… I don’t want CP Riyaz and Nazim to run after me. Can you arrange that for me?”
Abdulla Riyaz, now an MP, was the police chief at the time. Nazim was the defence minister at the time. The retired colonel was controversially jailed on a charge of smuggling arms last year.
Jabir has now threatened to sue Waheed over the audio, and alleged Waheed had taken bribes when he defected to the MDP in 2010.
During the Raajje TV interview, Waheed said the clip demonstrated that Yameen had used Adeeb as a front man.
“This shows [Yameen] made people propose bribes for judges, and for trials, and made them call Adeeb to settle the deals,” he said, adding: “Jabir is an influential businessman. If this is the way he is treated, imagine the hurdles an the ordinary man would have to cross.
“It was not Adeeb. He was carrying out the president’s orders.”
Adeeb, who went on to become vice president in July 2015, was arrested in October on suspicion of plotting to assassinate Yameen with a bomb on the president’s speedboat.
He is currently on trial on multiple counts of corruption in connection with the theft of nearly US$80 million from the state-owned tourism promotion company. Yameen has sought to distance himself from the corruption scandal, pinning the blame solely on his former deputy.
The prosecutor general’s office also filed charges against Adeeb this week over the September 28 blast on Yamee’s speedboat Finifenma.
The Maldivian judiciary is meanwhile facing criticism over the jailing of high-profile politicians. Human rights groups have expressed concern over politicisation, while the opposition has long-accused judges of taking bribes to issue favourable verdicts.
Jabir was arrested from a picnic island in November 2012 and charged with alcohol and cannabis possession. He was acquitted of the drug charges, but found guilty of refusing to provide a urine sample after the police raid on the island of Hondaidhoo.
After less than two months in custody, Jabir was temporarily released from jail for a period of three months to obtain medical treatment in Malaysia for respiratory difficulties.
He was jailed on his return on July 10 and pardoned ten days later.
Jabir was elected to the People’s Majlis on a Jumhooree Party ticket in a by-election in 2012 after the former Kaashidhoo MP Ismail Abdul Hameed was sentenced to one year and six months of banishment for corruption.
Jabir – owner of the Yacht Tours resort company – is well known for his frequently switching party allegiances. His first political party was Dhivehi Rayithunge Party during the presidency of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2005. He switched to Yameen’s People’s Alliance in 2007. He went on to switch between the Jumhooree Party and the MDP in the ensuing years.