MP Faris charged over use of PPM flag

MP Faris charged over use of PPM flag
June 22 16:16 2017

MP Faris Maumoon, son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, is facing trial over the alleged unauthorised use of the flag and logo of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives.

According to state media, the Prosecutor General’s office filed the case at the criminal court on Wednesday.

The MP for Dhiggaru was charged with identity fraud under section 312 of the penal code. Causing a person to falsely believe that the defendant was lawfully exercising official or legislative authority is a class five felony that carries a two-year prison sentence.

Faris was questioned by the police on June 1 over the use of the PPM’s flag at a joint opposition press conference in March. He was representing the PPM after Gayoom joined forces with the opposition and sought to seize the parliament’s majority with defections from the divided ruling party

The PPM was split into rival factions last year amid an acrimonious leadership dispute between Gayoom and his half-brother President Abdulla Yameen.

Yameen won the battle for control after the civil court stripped Gayoom of his powers as the party’s elected leader and lifted his suspension of the party’s council. The court ordered Yameen to resume council meetings under his leadership and the governing body promptly put him in charge of the party.

But Gayoom reacted by reconstituting the council and appointing loyalists to key posts, maintaining that the PPM charter prohibits a sitting president, who has a symbolic role as advisor, from managing the party.

In late March, the Yameen faction’s disciplinary committee expelled Gayoom from the PPM and the police subsequently took down the PPM flag from Gayoom’s office in Malé.

The anti-graft watchdog is meanwhile seeking to question Gayoom over alleged misuse of state funds from the former presidential palace Theemuge in 2007 and 2008, the last two years of his 30-year reign.

The Anti-Corruption Commission reportedly wrote to Gayoom on Monday and offered to send officials at a time and place of his convenience. ACC President Hassan Luthfy explained to local media that the commission has introduced rules for not summoning former presidents, speakers of parliament and chief justices.

The ACC needs to question Gayoom to complete the investigation, he said.

In late April, the police also sought charges against Faris over alleged failure to reimburse the state after the ACC forwarded a case concerning the Theemuge audit reports.

But the Prosecutor General’s office rejected the case as the statute of limitations for the illegal expenses charge was eight years.

Faris was also summoned for questioning five times ahead of the March 27 no-confidence vote against Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed and barred from travelling overseas. In late May, he was prevented from visiting his dying aunt because the authorities refused to lift the travel ban.

Other Gayoom loyalists have also faced legal action.

On Monday, the police asked the Prosecutor General’s office to press charges against Gayoom’s personal assistant Ahmed Sofwan for refusing to answer multiple summonses and return to the Maldives.

Sofwan was wanted for questioning over his alleged involvement with Faris in bribing lawmakers to vote in favour of the failed no-confidence motion against Speaker Maseeh, the police said.

Faris was also questioned over the bribery allegations in late April. He dismissed the “bogus accusations” as an intimidation attempt.

In early May, Abdul Aleem, the Gayoom faction’s secretary-general, meanwhile paid an MVR85,000 (US$5,500) fine for contempt of court after a five-judge panel at the civil court decided that he contravened the October ruling that effectively gave Yameen control of the PPM.

Aleem was also previously placed under investigation, along with Gayoom supporter Ibrahim Afraath, on a charge of bribing lawmakers ahead of the vote to oust the speaker of the parliament.

He was also questioned by the police in late May over allegations of bribing lawmakers to vote in favour of a no-confidence motion against Deputy Speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik.

He was asked whether he had any knowledge about, managed, stashed or delivered funds intended to be distributed to MPs. Aleem said he categorically denied the allegations.

Zaidul Ameen, a former Malé city councillor and staunch Gayoom loyalist, is meanwhile on trial over an alleged attempt to sell a secretly recorded conversation with Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed Mohamed.

Zaid previously accused a high-ranking police officer of threatening to keep him detained unless he gave false testimony that could be used as a pretext to arrest former Gayoom.

Gayoom returned to the Maldives last week after nearly three months overseas.