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JP leader Gasim returns to Maldives

The tycoon returned after more than a year in exile.



After more than a year in exile, Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim returned to the Maldives Thursday afternoon, days after the High Court ordered his release on bail.

Along with his wives and children, Gasim was greeted at the airport by president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and leaders of the joint opposition parties.

Throngs of jubilant supporters welcomed Gasim at the official jetty in Malé.

Gasim, MP of the Maamigili constituency and owner of the Villa business empire, was controversially found guilty of attempted bribery and sentenced to more than three years in prison in August last year.

The verdict was delivered in absentia while the 67-year-old opposition lawmaker was hospitalised after collapsing inside the courthouse.

Gasim was later granted medical leave to seek treatment in Singapore, from where he secured a special permit from the German government to travel to Frankfurt.

On Sunday, the High Court ordered Gasim’s release pending a judgment on the appeal of his bribery conviction. Bail was set at MVR70,000 (US$4,500).

Hailed as the “kingmaker” in previous presidential elections, Gasim and the JP was part of the coalition that decisively defeated President Abdulla Yameen in the September 23 polls.

Vice president-elect Faisal Naseem was nominated to the coalition ticket by the JP and Gasim’s wife Aishath Nahula travelled to about 60 islands for the campaign.

The coalition secured strong majorities in JP strongholds, including 84 percent of the vote from Gasim’s native Maamigili island.

Addressing supporters at the JP headquarters, Gasim thanked party officials and praised his wife for her campaigning on his behalf.

He condemned his bribery conviction as unjust and unlawful and criticised President Yameen’s apparent refusal to accept the election outcome. Trying to reject the public’s verdict would be futile, he said.

Former MP Ali Waheed, who has been living in exile since the 2015 May Day protest, also returned with Gasim. The former Maldivian Democratic Party chairman was elected to the newly-created post of JP president to oversee all administrative matters at the party’s national conference in June.

While he was in exile, Gasim’s son Ibrahim Siyad Gasim, managing director of the Villa conglomerate, was detained for over five months on bribery charges.