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Perjury charge sought against Bank of Maldives official

Deputy CEO Shareef is accused of lying to an oversight committee.



Parliament will seek a police investigation of Bank of Maldives Deputy CEO Mohamed Shareef over alleged perjury, Speaker Mohamed Nasheed announced on Tuesday.

Shareef is accused of providing false information and perjuring himself while testifying before parliament’s public accounts oversight committee last week.

A day after parliament announced its intention to seek a perjury probe, Shareef wrote to the speaker and pledged to cooperate with the committee inquiry, prompting Nasheed to declare that he was considering withdrawing the request made to the police.

But Nasheed announced at the start of Tuesday’s sitting of parliament that a review of the committee meeting’s minutes has made it clear that Shareef had committed perjury in an effort to mislead lawmakers.

“Yesterday, I told you that I will look in to it and might have to reconsider. Honestly, what we need to do is to investigate him,” Nasheed said.

Shareef was questioned by the public accounts committee last week after the Anti-Corruption Commission implicated dozens of BML employees over alleged collusion in the country’s biggest corruption scandal, which saw more than MVR1.4 billion (US$91 million) stolen from the state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation during the previous administration.

The stolen funds were funnelled through the national bank after cheques paid to the MMPRC were deposited to the accounts of a private company called SOF.

But Shareef claimed the bank had followed legal procedures and repeatedly insisted that employees were innocent of any wrongdoing.

Local media reported last week that contrary to Shareef’s assertions, BML had deposited non-negotiable cheques to SOF’s account. Non-negotiable cheques must only be deposited to the payee’s account.

Referring to banking laws, Nasheed noted that depositing a non-negotiable cheque to another account was a crime.

Shareef was explicitly asked during the committee hearing whether any non-negotiable cheques were used in the embezzlement scheme. In response, he said the bank followed legal procedures.

The speaker said it was clear from Shareef’s testimony that a non-negotiable crossed cheque would not have been used to siphon off state funds, adding that he has seen photos of the MMPRC cheques, which included non-negotiable cheques.

During his testimony, Shareef also sought to deflect blame to the central bank’s anti-money laundering watchdog.

He said BML fulfilled its responsibility by reporting the transactions to the central bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit, an independent agency tasked with flagging suspicious transactions.

But MPs were skeptical of claims the bank played no role in facilitating the unprecedented theft from state coffers.

Shortly after the MMPRC scandal was first exposed in a February 2016 audit report, a BML manager was arrested and jailed for eight months for disclosing damning information.

According to a bank statement leaked by whistleblower Gasim Abdul Kareem, more than MVR1.3 billion (US$84 million) was funnelled through SOF’s US dollar account between May 2014 to October 2015.