Mohamed Allam Latheef ‘Moho,’ owner of a company implicated in the Maldives’ biggest corruption scandal, has admitted to paying Cherie Blair’s legal consultancy firm Omnia Strategy on behalf of the government.
In his first media interview since the Maldives police launched a manhunt for him, Allam told The Daily Mail from an undisclosed location in Europe that he had arranged for the transfer of £210,000 to Omnia at the requested of detained former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb.
Allam is wanted in connection with an alleged attempt to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen with a bomb on his speedboat last September.
Citing leaked invoices and bank records, The Daily Mail reported last month that Omnia had billed Abdulla Ziyath, former managing director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, in August last year for £210,000 – half of its fee for a six-month contract signed with the Maldivian government in mid-2015.
According to a damning special audit of the MMPRC, US$80 million was siphoned off from the state-owned tourism promotion company into Allam’s SOF Pvt Ltd.
But the property development company owned by Allam’s family claims it provided a “brokerage” service to the MMPRC and distributed the money to the first couple and prominent politicians.
“I did not know about the original source of the funds, but because of events that have taken place in the Maldives since, I now know that it was stolen. Even the government now acknowledges that it was, in fact, stolen money,” Allam told the British newspaper.
“So yes, it is absolutely the case that Cherie Blair’s firm received stolen money from doing business with the government of the Maldives.”
Allam insisted that he was “duped into making illegal payments to people, including Cherie Blair.”
“I am being used as a scapegoat because they need someone to blame for crimes that were actually committed by very senior people in a very corrupt government,” he said.
In response to Allam’s interview, a foreign ministry official told The Maldives Independent that the government stands firmly by its insistence that Omnia was paid from official government accounts through the finance ministry.
An Interpol red notice issued for Allam’s arrest states that he is wanted for “threatening catastrophe, criminal property damage, use of dangerous weapons during an offence, trafficking, manufacture, sale, or possession of catastrophic agents or firearms, terrorism, and corruption.”
Adeeb and Ziyath – who were initially arrested in connection with the September 28 blast on the president’s speedboat – are now on trial for corruption over the embezzlement of nearly US$80 million from the MMPRC.
Adeeb and five soldiers have also been charged in connection with the alleged assassination attempt.
Yameen has meanwhile denied any involvement in the MMPRC corruption scandal, claiming his former deputy was solely responsible for the unprecedented theft of state funds.
Allam – formerly the lead singer of a popular local band called Scores of Flair – said Adeeb, who was an acquaintance, had approached him in early 2014.
“He asked me to be a broker, to use the company to help manage some funds that he and the president needed to distribute in the Maldives and overseas,” he explained.
Assuming that the money was “party funds rather than government funds,” Allam said he agreed to help and subsequently distributed millions of dollars to individuals and companies on Adeeb’s instructions.
“I wasn’t aware of the details, but in the Maldives it is not the culture to ask questions,” he continued.
“We are not supposed to ask any further than what powerful people tell us. If you ask about details, you will be in trouble. Let’s say Al Capone were to come along and tell you to do something, well you would just do it. In the Maldives, the president and Vice President are like Al Capone, so I did what they said.’
“Once or twice, when I did ask about the source of money, they just said it was party funds from the ruling [Progressive Party of Maldives].”
Allam said he received a brokerage fee of about 0.001 percent of the value of the transactions, claiming that his total profit was around £300.
Allam fled the country in mid-October with his wife and child. Adeeb and Ziyath were arrested later that month while the police and military raided several buildings in Malé, including Allam’s residence and SOF office.
“They took all the computers, all the hard drives, everything. I believe they want to hide evidence of what exactly happened. It would show that I am innocent, but would also reveal that the president was closely involved in all of the corruption at MMPRC,” he said.
Allam went on to deny all the charges against him, calling the current administration “corrupt and undemocratic.”
“I can prove that I am innocent of all the crimes they say I committed. I have not stolen £30 million, or any money at all. I know nothing about a bomb, and I am not a terrorist,” he said.
“I have no criminal records, not even a parking ticket. I also have no background in, or any involvement with, violence. Everyone who knows me will testify that I am a very simple person.”
Allam said he fears for his life if he is sent back to the Maldives.
“I fear that if I go back, I won’t get a fair trial. I won’t have any human rights,” he said.
‘Even now, relations of mine who are still in the Maldives are getting threatening phone calls. It is not a free and fair country; it is a dictatorship, and a very corrupt one at that, as Cherie Blair must now know.”
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