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Monday roundup: judge shares cartoon of president in chains

A roundup of the day’s top stories.



The judicial watchdog has placed the criminal court’s chief judge under investigation for alleged ethical misconduct over a cartoon of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Speaker Mohamed Nasheed in chains.

Judge Ahmed Hailaim shared the cartoon as Victory Day greetings on the criminal court’s Viber group, according to the Judicial Service Commission, which decided to launch the probe at an emergency meeting on Monday morning. The post amounts to a breach of ethical standards if the judge is proven to be responsible, the watchdog noted.

Under the tag ‘That honour and dignity have been stolen today,’ the cartoon sought to tie President Solih and former president Nasheed to a failed coup attempt by a group of Maldivians and Tamil mercenaries on November 3, 1988.

Judge Hailam, who was appointed to the bench in January last year, is due to pass a verdict on Tuesday in former president Abdulla Yameen’s money laundering trial.

At Monday’s sitting of parliament, MPs from the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party called for Hailam’s immediate suspension, questioned his integrity and accused the judge of accepting bribes. The criticism prompted opposition lawmakers to protest in the chamber and allege undue influence over the judiciary.

Opposition MP Fazul Rasheed was stopped from entering the chamber with a vuvuzela. Both Fazul and Mahibadhoo MP Ahmed Thoriq blew whistles as opposition lawmakers protested in front of the speaker’s desk.

Despite the loss of order, Speaker Nasheed continued proceedings and told Thoriq to write “I will not blow whistles” a hundred times.

Ex-president Yameen summoned for MMPRC probe

Former president Abdulla Yameen was summoned for questioning on Monday afternoon in relation to the theft of more than US$90 million from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation during his administration.

The summons come after the police together with the Anti-Corruption Commission and the presidential commission on corruption and asset recovery briefed the press in late October. The joint investigation was said to have made progress based on new information 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.

The 60-year-old opposition leader is facing a verdict on Tuesday on money laundering charges raised over US$1 million deposited to his personal account by SOF.

Adeeb has confessed to his role in the MMPRC embezzlement scheme and claimed to have followed Yameen’s instructions. But the former president denies any involvement in the biggest corruption scandal in Maldivian history.

Ex-housing minister denies responsibility for US$55 million payout

Former housing minister Dr Mohamed Muizz was questioned by parliament’s public accounts committee over his statement to an arbitration court in the Netherlands over the cancellation of two housing projects. 

The government has paid US$55 million as compensation to Noomadi Resorts and Residences. An out-of-court settlement was reached after Noomadi filed two cases at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague seeking US$155 million in damages and legal costs.

Both deals were scrapped during the previous administration and Muizz is accused of conceding during arbitration proceedings that they were cancelled in violation of the agreements.

Grilled by ruling party lawmakers, Muizz claimed not to recall the person who collected his written statement and refused to say whether he had been called as a witness by Noomadi or the government. But he remembered recalling the statement and submitting a revised version to more accurately reflect the facts.

The main opposition party’s deputy leader said he did not have a copy of the statement but insisted that the state’s case would not have been weakened because of it.

Muizz claimed he was being made “a scapegoat” and accused an housing ministry official of making false allegations against the former housing minister at the arbitration court. The unnamed official remains in his post under the current administration, he said, adding that he had testified to clear his name. The state would have won the case if the government had not settled, he contended.

But Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer told the oversight committee last week that an arbitration award could have exceeded US$200 million and blamed Muizz’s statement.

Noomadi was first enlisted in January 2011 during former president Mohamed Nasheed’s administration to build 600 housing units under a private villa model. The second agreement was signed during former president Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration in May 2013 to build 500 housing units, a police academy and sewerage on three islands.

According to Muizz, the dispute arose when the former government took back an uninhabited island from Noomadi and offered a different island for resort development. The Dhiffushimaadhoo island in Lhaviyani atoll was “too big and beautiful” to lease rent-free, he said.