Along with two ministers who were also suspended last week, the political appointees were named in the Anti-Corruption Commission’s long-awaited investigation report into the theft of resort acquisition costs paid to the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation.
Two companies with shares owned by Ahmed Mausoom, chairman of the Malé Water and Sewerage Company, were paid US$6.1 million from SOF Pvt Ltd, a company that was used to funnel the bulk of US$90 million stolen from the MMPRC, according to the report released last Thursday.
SOF – which was alleged to have used a large money laundering network – also transferred US$50,000 to the bank account of Abdulla Azim, non-executive director of Island Aviation Services, the anti-corruption watchdog found.
The president’s office told both men on Wednesday to stay home until the conclusion of a probe into the ACC’s findings.
Mausoom, a businessman and former finance chief of the Maldivian Democratic Party, also served as chief of staff during the administration of former president Mohamed Nasheed.
Nasheed came to Mausoom’s defence in the wake of his suspension. Mausoom divested his shares in MC Maldives 20 years ago, he tweeted, expressing “full confidence” in his integrity.
MC Maldives, a textile importer, runs a shop and bonded warehouse. According to the ACC report, its owner Abdulla Rafiu was also a shareholder of a company called CGT along with Mausoom, Umar Jamal and Ahmed Zahir.
CGT operates the tobacco wholesaler shop Root and the Alfresco café in Malé.
Some US$5.7 million was transferred to CGT from the embezzled funds distributed by SOF, much of which was used to import tobacco. There was no documentation to show that CGT or Rafiu paid SOF back in local currency.
SOF also transferred US$1.6 million to Rafiu’s personal account at the Bank of Ceylon, of which US$1.6 million was withdrawn in cash, US$800,000 was transferred to CGT, US$150,000 transferred to Mediquip Maldives Pvt Ltd and US$100,000 transferred to Aima Construction.
Several companies exposed in the ACC report have claimed they conducted legitimate transactions with SOF to purchase US dollars.
– Omnia Strategy –
According to the report, US$328,052 was transferred by SOF to MC Maldives in September 2015.
On the same day, MC Maldives transferred the money to Omnia Strategy, a UK-based legal consultancy firm headed by Cherie Blair, wife of the former prime minister.
Shortly after the MMPRC scandal was exposed in a damning audit report in February 2016 – which implicated former vice president Ahmed Adeeb and his associates in siphoning off resort lease payments – The Daily Mail reported that the money was transferred to Omnia as half of its fee for a six-month contract with the Maldivian government.
MC Maldives’ Rafiu told the British newspaper that he wired the money as a favour to Mohamed Allam Latheef ‘Moho,’ the owner of SOF.
It was wired from an account at the Bank of Ceylon branch in Malé as SOF was unable to make an international payment on the eve of the Eid holidays. He was unaware the money was a payment to Omnia, Rafiu claimed.
In his statement to the ACC, Rafiu said he found out the recipient was the UK law firm through the media. He also reported the case to the Maldives police when the government at the time claimed the payment was made through the foreign ministry.
SOF owner Allam told The Daily Mail from exile in Europe that he had arranged for the transfer of £210,000 to Omnia at the request of vice president Adeeb.
Secret documents obtained by the Daily Mail showed Omnia was hired to advise on “strategic diplomacy, media training, international media relations, and the management of international coverage” over the imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed and former defence Minister Mohamed Nazim.
Allam – formerly the lead singer of a local band called Scores of Flair – insisted he was “duped into making illegal payments to people, including Cherie Blair.”
He was asked to be a broker to help Adeeb manage and distribute funds, Allam said, and he had assumed the money was “party funds rather than government funds.”
According to SOF’s leaked bank statements, more than MVR1.3 billion (US$84 million) was funnelled through the US dollar account between May 2014 to October 2015.
Secretly filmed confessions with SOF’s owner Moho and two others about delivering stolen cash to former president Abdulla Yameen were featured in an Al Jazeera corruption exposé.