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Ex-president admits using US$1m linked to corruption scandal

Yameen is accused of money laundering and giving false information to the anti-corruption watchdog.



After spending six hours completing a statement at the police headquarters Tuesday, former president Abdulla Yameen admitted using funds transferred from a company linked to a massive corruption scandal under his watch.

Yameen is under investigation over US$1 million deposited to his account at the Maldives Islamic Bank by SOF, a local company that was used to siphon off resort acquisition fees paid to the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation.

He is accused of money laundering and giving false information to the Anti-Corruption Commission during its investigation into the unprecedented theft of US$90 million from the state-owned company.

In early 2018, Yameen made an agreement to keep the money in an escrow account formed with the ACC.

But the money handed over to the ACC-held account was not the US$1 million from SOF, he told reporters after emerging from the police headquarters, admitting to having transferred it to an investment account at the Islamic Bank.

He later obtained a US$1 million cheque from former tourism minister Moosa Zameer and deposited it to the ACC account at the Bank of Maldives, Yameen said.

There should be no problem “as one million for one million was deposited to the escrow account,” he insisted. Zameer was paid in local currency to buy the dollars, which was “very clean money.”

He conceded the SOF money could have come from the millions embezzled from MMPRC. But that has yet to be established by an investigative agency or proven at court, he stressed.

The US$1 million was owed to him by former vice president Ahmed Adeeb before he was arrested on charges of orchestrating an assassination attempt, Yameen said.

The former right-hand man is serving 33 years in prison for terrorism and corruption charges stemming from the MMPRC scandal.

Prior to Adeeb’s arrest in the wake of the September 2015 explosion on the presidential speedboat, campaign finances and donations were managed by him, Yameen said.

When he asked Adeeb for money from the campaign funds after the alleged bomb plot, “Adeeb said one million has now been deposited to [your] account. And then some days after that the ACC called and said money has been deposited to the president’s account from SOF.”

It came as a “surprise” as he was unaware of SOF at the time. But there were no grounds to consider accepting cheques from SOF as money laundering as there has been no such determination or announcement by a state authority, Yameen contended.

SOF had also conducted transactions with state-owed companies, he said.

Asked if he could face arrest, the former president said he did not believe there was any reason.

Yameen’s bank accounts were frozen with more than MVR100 million (US$6.5 million) in US dollars and local currency last month as police launched a probe into campaign contributions and the US$1 million from SOF.

The investigation has established that large sums of money were deposited into the former president’s accounts while he was in office, police said.

In the wake of his heavy election defeat, Al Jazeera reported that police had been alerted by the central bank’s anti-money laundering watchdog to US$1.5 million deposited into Yameen’s private account, ten days before the September 23 election.

The bank was told the money was campaign contributions and “the whole amount was later withdrawn in hard currency,” according to a confidential letter sent from the Financial Intelligence Unit.

The election law requires candidates to “open an account in his own name in a bank operated in the Maldives in order to spend on election related expenses.” Financial contributions must also be deposited in the same account.

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