First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim distributed cash during visits to households in Malé amidst concern over the first couple’s involvement in the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars from state coffers.
Fathimath Zaina, from the first lady’s office, confirmed to The Maldives Independent that Fathimath had distributed money when she visited households in Galolhu and Henveiru wards on Thursday.
“The first lady takes a personal interest in helping the needy and the cash handouts came from her personal income. These were acts of personal charity,” she said.
Fathimath will continue visiting households this week, Zaina said.
Photos of the first lady handing out a white envelope to a smiling man had sparked outrage on social media with President Abdulla Yameen’s administration mired in a historic corruption scandal.
Some US$80million was embezzled through the state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, a recent audit report had found.
First Lady tipping cash 30USD equivalent MVR. in an envelope for senior citizens in her neighborhood. May God save the king. #Maldives
— Keyolhu (@najeebshahym) February 25, 2016
Robin from the poor and giving to the poor. Lady Robinhood or first lady Mv pic.twitter.com/YH78LHYQvc
— #Boycott2018ElecMv (@saudbe) February 26, 2016
Steals MVR 3 billion from an already impoverished public. Returns MVR 500 to them in a fuck-you envelope. pic.twitter.com/R0FUSxucRx
— Yameen Rasheed (@yaamyn) February 25, 2016
Similar concerns were raised in January when the first couple disbursed a reported MVR5million (US324,000) to single mothers. Fathimath had also distributed food to the disabled before Ramadan last year. At the time, her office denied claims that she had given money to chronically ill patients at the hospital.
Thoriq Hamid of anti-graft body, Transparency Maldives, said: “While charity is commendable, the Maldives has a long history of clientelism and patronage and such actions by the first lady further reinforces this behaviour, especially in the absence of an enforceable publicly-available asset declaration regime.”
Meanwhile SOF, a private company which received a share of the embezzled MMPRC funds, has claimed that the company merely played the role of a “brokerage” by depositing specific amounts to accounts of state officials and other parties including the president himself.
Yameen has categorically denied involvement, pinning the blame solely on his detained former deputy Ahmed Adeeb. The president admitted to “helping” ruling party officials and members of the public, but said he thought the money Adeeb had disbursed on his behalf came from gifts given by businessmen.
The president takes half of his salary and lives at his own residence instead of the presidential palace.
Independent MP Ahmed Mahloof was summoned to the police headquarters in early February over claims that there are millions of dollars in the first couple’s private bank accounts.
“Fathimath Ibrahim Didi’s [State Bank of India] account has only 13 million dollars, while President [Abdulla] Yameen’s SBI account has only 9 million dollars!” Mahloof had tweeted.
Mahloof and an opposition MP were fined US$6.5 each Saturday for dumping fake dollar bills featuring the president’s face outside his residence earlier this month.
The Maldives Islamic Bank last week released details of Yameen’s bank accounts to the anti-corruption watchdog over a complaint that US$1million from the stolen funds was deposited into his personal accounts.