The police together with the Anti-Corruption Commission and the presidential commission on corruption and asset recovery briefed the press on Thursday about their joint investigation into the theft of more than US$90 million from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation during the previous administration.
New information was provided by former vice president Ahmed Adeeb and his exiled associates from SOF Pvt Ltd, a local company that served as a vehicle to channel the stolen funds, which was used for bribes and political purposes.
Below are the key takeaways from the joint press conference.
The number of beneficiaries is now 267 people
They include 44 lawmakers from the 18th parliament, 16 lawmakers from the current parliament, five former members of independent commissions, 30 senior officials from the previous government, seven senior officials of the incumbent government, five judges (sitting and former), seven officers from the security services (including a former police commissioner and deputy commissioner)
The priority of the ongoing investigation is to question officials from the present administration
Beneficiaries might not have been directly involved in embezzlement scheme
A cooperation agreement was signed with Adeeb to limit the number of cases against him to seven with a maximum jail sentence of 20 years in exchange for a full confession and evidence in the form of phone messages, emails and other documentation.
The first embezzlement scheme began ahead of the March 2014 parliamentary elections. The MMPRC took MVR77 million (US$5 million) from Maldives Ports Limited to be paid back in dollars and borrowed US$1 million from the Maldives Tourism Development Corporation in the guise of making an urgent payment to a foreign party.
In both cases, the money was immediately transferred to companies owned by Adeeb’s father and a businessman related to him. It was withdrawn in large amounts days before the polls.
The stolen funds were used to fund campaigns for both party primaries and the general election as well as the election of the parliament’s speaker through secret ballot. It was also used to recruit lawmakers from other parties to the ruling party and to secure majorities for important votes.
The dollar scheme was exposed in a special audit released in October 2014 by former auditor general Niyaz Ibrahim, who was unconstitutionally sacked by the ruling party-controlled parliament a day after the audit report was released, four years before the end of his seven-year term.
The second embezzlement scheme involved siphoning off acquisition fees paid to lease islands and lagoons for resort development. The money was initially used to repay MPL and MTDC.
The investigation has found that the stolen cash was distributed to lawmakers, judges and others to serve political ends. The money was also used for election campaigns and entertainment events held by the government,
Of the islands leased by the MMPRC, agreements were signed for 49 islands at discounted rates. If the islands had been leased through a competitive bidding process, the government would have earned at least US$290 million more than the US$77 million paid to the MMPRC.