A former bank official who leaked documents related to the Maldives’ biggest ever corruption scandal was sentenced to eight months and 12 days in prison by the criminal court.
Gasim Abdul Kareem’s counsel have called for his immediate release, noting the 50-year-old has already spent a period longer than his prison sentence in state custody.
The former manager of the Bank of Maldives’ Nilandhoo branch was among four nominees short-listed for Transparency International’s annual anti corruption award, which honours individuals and organisations that expose and fight corruption.
Since Gasim’s arrest on February 18, he has spent more than four months in police custody and another four months in house-imprisonment.
He was charged with data theft and illegal disclosure on June 26, and prosecuted in a trial that was closed to the public.
The whistle-blower, who confessed to emailing screenshots of transactions by SOF Pvt Ltd, a company that channelled the bulk of some US$80million stolen from state coffers, said he had leaked the bank records to expose wrong doing.
Ahmed Nazim, lead defence counsel, contended that Gasim’s disclosure was protected by the Maldives’ Banking Act and the penal code.
But Judge Hussain Shakeel, delivering a verdict on Tuesday, said Gasim could not prove that his actions were in good faith in court. Gasim was given a six month prison sentence for data theft and two months and 12 days for unlawful disclosure.
He is now being held at a jail in the capital Malé.
In a letter to the commissioner general of prisons on Wednesday, Nazim noted that court regulations state that when an individual is detained in state custody or at his home, the total period spent under detention must be deducted from the term of their prison sentence.
Gasim has already spent a total of nearly nine months in detention; the eight month 13 day period elapsed on October 30.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed has called Gasim an anti-corruption hero, and called for his immediate release.
Praising Gasim, Transparency Maldives, a local chapter of Transparency International, said the former bank official had “done a public service and his civic duty by exposing information related to the country’s biggest corruption scandal.”
Transparency International has previously called for his release, urging the Maldives’ chief prosecutor to dismiss charges against Gasim.
According to the special audit of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, some US$65.01 million collected as acquisition costs from leasing islands, lagoons and plots of land for tourism was diverted into private bank accounts.
SOF later said it provided a “brokerage” service to the MMPRC and diverted the funds to the first couple and ruling party members.
The transactions revealed that some US$500,000 was deposited to President Abdulla Yameen’s bank account at the Maldives Islamic Bank. But president has denied any involvement in the unprecedented corruption scandal, insisting that the graft did not reach higher than his former deputy.