Maldivian Democratic Party Chairperson Ali Waheed has challenged President Abdulla Yameen to dispute evidence of his involvement in the Maldives’ biggest corruption scandal.
Speaking to the opposition-aligned Raajje TV from the UK last night, the former MP said the main opposition party has evidence proving that US$500,000 was deposited to Yameen’s account at the Maldives Islamic Bank by a company implicated in the embezzlement of US$70 million from the state-owned tourism promotion company.
According to a damning special audit of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, nearly US$80 million was siphoned off into the bank accounts of companies linked to former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb between November 2013 and October last year.
The bulk of the funds was deposited to the account of a local company called SOF Pvt Ltd, owned by Mohamed Allam Latheef ‘Moho,’ a close associate of Adeeb.
“SOF private limited, highlighted in the report produced by the audit office under Abdulla Yameen’s power as having received large sums from the MMPRC corruption, had deposited US$500,000 on October 12, 2015 at 10:30:54 to his account,” Ali Waheed alleged.
Citing the user ID (Anoosa), transaction number (1405664), the bank account number (99010110002200200), the name of the employee who oversaw the transaction, and the name and mobile phone number of the bank’s manager, Waheed challenged Yameen to refute the allegation by publishing his bank statement from MIB.
The opposition has secured enough evidence implicating Yameen in massive corruption even if records are deleted from the banking system, he added.
Ibrahim Muaz Ali, the president’s spokesperson, was not responding to calls.
Following the audit report’s release last Friday, SOF said in a statement that it provided a “brokerage” service to the MMPRC and distributed the funds as requested to the first couple, the ruling party, and senior politicians.
Addressing the corruption allegations for the first time on Monday, Yameen categorically denied that any of the missing funds were deposited to his account or his wife’s account.
Speaking at a harbour opening ceremony on a northern island, Yameen challenged SOF to provide evidence or a paper trial to back up its claim.
A committee has been formed at the president’s office to implement the recommendations of the audit report, Yameen said, which included recovering the stolen funds and reviewing internal controls at the government.
He also suggested that the embezzlement was made possible by the “negligence” by banks or “complicity” of bank employees. The audit report had also noted that cheques made out to the MMPRC were deposited to private accounts despite lacking the signature of two senior staff as required by a board resolution.
“So the person in charge of the government might not know about it. When money is circulated through a bank, the president’s office or the auditor general isn’t going to go check the bank’s activities. The [Anti-Corruption Commisson] won’t check either. It will only be found out when wrongdoing is known and an audit is conducted,” he said.
If the perpetrators are “devious” enough, Yameen said corruption can take place despite the strongest oversight mechanisms or controls.
Waheed meanwhile went on to level serious allegations against Yameen, claiming that the Maldives was used to launder US$1.5 billion for a foreign party.
The September 28 blast on the president’s speedboat and the subsequent police investigation was a smokescreen to eliminate evidence of the corruption, he suggested.
Colonel Ahmed Fayaz ‘Papa’ has been held in administrative detention at military barracks since October because Yameen fears he could blow the lid off the money laundering operation, Waheed said.
Fayaz was involved in laundering the “black money” through the Maldives Monetary Authority, which then “washed the money clean” and deposited it to private bank accounts.
Waheed – who is living in self-imposed exile in London after fleeing the country in the wake of a police crackdown on a mass anti-government rally on May 1 – repeatedly called Yameen a “big thief.”
He also said that a foreign party has investigated Yameen’s corrupt activities and shared findings with foreign governments.
The MDP had said earlier this month that it has received evidence of Yameen’s involvement in money laundering and terrorist financing.
The party said it has a report of a covert intelligence operation based on interviews with government officials and analyses conducted on material found on detained Adeeb’s personal laptops.
The evidence appears to show that senior politicians, police, military, and judges are “working together in a single criminal conspiracy creating a haven for corruption, turning a nascent democracy into an industrial-scale kleptocracy,” the party said.