Two state-owned flats in Malé have been leased to President Abdulla Yameen’s son, below the market price but with the consent of the anti-corruption watchdog.
Hassan Luthfy, president of the Anti-Corruption Commission, told local media that the finance ministry had sought the commission’s legal advice over renting out two apartments from the Muraidhoo house to Zain Abdulla Yameen for one year.
Each two-room apartment was rented for MVR12,000 (US$778) a month, a rate approved by the ACC.
“The rent is not too small, MVR12,000 is not a small when compared to the market value. In all such situations people will criticise and say something,” Luthfy was quoted as saying on Raajje.mv.
Muraidhoo was acquired for state use during the 30-year reign of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. The apartment building was constructed in 2002.
It is also on the same street as Hilaaleege, the vacant official residence of the vice president, which is reportedly undergoing renovation for the first couple to move in. Yameen has been living in his private residence since assuming office in November 2013.
Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told The Maldives Independent that the Muraidhoo apartments were leased “in accordance with state finance laws and regulations.” He was unavailable for further comment.
A human rights advocate who wished to remain anonymous expressed concern over the lease of state-owned apartments to the president’s elder son. He stressed that privileges afforded to the president and his family is explicitly stated in laws and regulations.
“If the government is going to lease a state-owned flat, it should initiate an open bidding process. In my view the public should have a fair chance to rent the apartment,” he said.
According to local real estate website ibay.com.mv, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Malé is between MVR14,000 (US$900) to MVR16,000 (US$1,000).
Raajje.mv also reported a leaked letter from Jihad to Commissioner General of Taxation Yazeed Mohamed asking the tax authority to accept rent for October and November without imposing fines for late payment.
The opposition-aligned news website also published a copy of the lease agreement.
In April, the government stirred controversy when it awarded luxury flats at discount prices to the five Supreme Court justices and four heads of independent bodies, including the ACC’s Luthfy.