The criminal court entered pleas of “not guilty” on behalf of jailed former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, a top ex-tourism official, and an influential businessman standing trial over the Maldives’ biggest corruption scandal.
Adeeb, Abdulla Ziyath, ex-managing director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, and Hamid Ismail, an influential businessman related to the detained former vice president appeared at the criminal court today for trials in relation to the theft of lease acquisition fee for the island of Maabinhuraa in Lhaviyani Atoll.
The court entered pleas on behalf of the defendants after they refused to respond to charges over the court’s alleged refusal to provide them with case documents.
Moosa Siraj, lawyer representing Adeeb explained to The Maldives Independent that the defendants were only provided with the statements they gave to the police during investigations, and several financial records.
“We have not received any documents that explain the charges against the defendants,” Siraj said.
The presiding Judge Ibrahim Ali went on to allow state lawyers to present the list of witneses today.
The state submitted a list of total of 11 witnesses today, including nine anonymous witnesses and a list of ten pieces of documentary evidence.
Today’s hearing was adjourned with the judge announcing that next hearing would be held in two sessions, the first half being allocated to the presentation of state witnesses and the explanation as to what each piece of evidence or witness is intended to prove and the second half to hear testimonials.
Siraj said that the judge had refused to respond to complaints by defence lawyers over the difficulties of having to assess and challenge state witnesses and evidence on the same day as they are presented.
Meanwhile, the criminal court continues to ban reporters from Raajje TV, CNM and Avas for having photographed the acting Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdul Bari Yoosuf, outside the court building. However, the reason has not been communicated in writing, despite several requests by the outlets.
Adeeb and Ziyath are also on trial on a charge of misappropriating US$1 million paid as acquisition fees by a foreign company for the 50-year lease of a lagoon in Malé atoll.
Public prosecutors have previously said the pair are facing corruption charges over the lease of 50 more properties, but charges have not been filed yet.
The MMPRC scandal is the Maldives’ biggest ever corruption scandal.
Adeeb is also being prosecuted on charges of terrorism over a blast on President Abdulla Yameen’s speedboat last September. The explosion led to Adeeb’s arrest and impeachment, and a probe into the MMPRC’s lease of islands and lagoons for tourism.