President Abdulla Yameen has blamed former President Mohamed Nasheed’s claims of Maldivians joining extremist groups in Syria for an international bank dropping the Maldives from its client list.
Addressing supporters on the island of Gahdhoo in Gaaf Dhaal atoll yesterday, Yameen said the opposition leader has wrought “irreparable damage” with “exaggerated” statements to international media.
“Because [Nasheed] keeps saying this, one of the strongest correspondent banks among us has been lost. And now a second bank is talking of pulling out,” he said.
According to local media, the president was referring to the US-based JP Morgan Chase.
Yameen explained that the Bank of Maldives needs the services of correspondent banks – financial institutions that can conduct business transactions, accept deposits and gather documents on behalf of other banks – in order to conduct overseas transactions, such as remittances and telegraphic or swift transfers.
He also insisted that the inflow and outflow of foreign currency in the Maldives are subject to unrivaled and rigorous scrutiny.
Shortly after Yameen ended his speech – which was aired live on the state broadcaster – Nasheed tweeted: “Foreign banks are stopping working [with the Maldives] because Maldivian banks have been used for money laundering, not because [locals] are going to war.”
In addition to calling for an independent investigation into Yameen’s alleged involvement in the Maldives’ biggest corruption scandal, Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party has also alleged the involvement of senior government officials laundering US$1.5 billion last year through the Maldives’ central bank.
Citing leaked documents and emails, India’s The Sunday Standard reported yesterday that a “shadowy businessman” from Singapore named Tan Kuan Yew flew in the cash to the Maldives in March last year.
The money was channeled “into legitimate businesses by floating a front company, SitiTrust & Administrator Ltd.”
The leaked documents include correspondence between the Singaporean and Vice President Ahmed Adeeb as well as former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s sons, Gassan Maumoon and Faris Maumoon, and Colonel Ahmed Fayaz ‘Papa’.
The allegations were first made by MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed, who alleged Maldives Monetary Authority Governor Dr Azeema Adam’s “direct involvement” in the alleged money laundering operation during an appearance on the opposition-aligned Raajje TV.
The MMA promptly issued a statement dismissing the allegations as “complete lies without a shred of truth”.
The central bank said it is “considering taking legal action against those who make false allegations and try to discredit this institution and its senior management.”
Dr Azeema also told The Sunday Telegraph that the MMA did not issue any letters to Yew or his company, Idea-V Investment Management Pvt Ltd.
Earlier this month, the MDP said it received a report of a covert intelligence operation with evidence proving the government’s involvement in money laundering and terrorism financing. The report was based on interviews with government officials and analyses conducted on material found on detained former Vice President Adeeb’s personal laptops.
The evidence appears to show that senior politicians, police, military, and judges are “working together in a single criminal conspiracy creating a haven for corruption, turning a nascent democracy into an industrial-scale kleptocracy,” the party said.