The Maldives Thursday declared that more than MVR13.5 billion (US$875 million) has been lost or stolen from state coffers since the 1990s, as it announced efforts to recover assets lost in high-profile corruption cases from former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s era.
The amount eclipses the entire state budget of 2010.
In a press conference held by the Commission on State Assets Recovery, the home minister and chair of the commission, Azleen Ahmed, blamed former governments for negligence in the loss.
“This is the first time a commission mandated to facilitate the recovery of state assets has been established. Previous governments neglected this,” Azleen said of the presidential commission established by President Abdulla Yameen in July.
Azleen said the commission has decided to prioritize corruption cases in which the total amount of money lost is higher than MVR5 million.
“This does not mean that we will not look into the cases where the state incurred losses below five million [MVR]. What I am saying is that we are first looking at cases of corruption above five million. After that we will also look into other cases,” Azleen said.
Quoting figures sent to the commission from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the auditor general, the attorney general, Maldives Inland Revenue Authority, the police service and the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, Azleen said authorities were looking into the loss of MVR13.5 billion from public funds.
“This includes corruption investigations that have been concluded and ongoing investigations. From the cases that have finished the investigation stage, ACC is working to recover MVR776 million, while the attorney general and the Ministry of Finance and Treasury is working to recover MVR26 million,” Azleen said.
He also said the cases of the failed state-owned enterprises Fisheries Projects Implementation Division (FPID) and Air Maldives Limited will be “researched” by the commission.
“You will know that in the history of Maldives, 18 or 19 years ago huge corruption cases were reported. I want to specifically note the corruption cases involving FPID and Air Maldives limited.”
The FPID corruption scandal led to the dissolution of the subsidiary of the State Trading Organisation and the formation of Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company.
Air Maldives, the first national carrier of the country, declared bankruptcy in 2000 after incurring losses estimated at US$50-70 million, amid allegations of mismanagement and corruption.
While the home minister declared that both these cases were “historically huge”, he admitted that the exact numbers involved were not clear yet.
“We are still working on establishing the amount the state lost in terms of these cases,” he said.
The commission also said efforts were underway to recover nearly US$80 million stolen from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation under the current administration’s watch, but noted that an investigation in the scandal was still ongoing.
The embezzlement of resort lease payments and other funds from the state-owned MMPRC was the biggest corruption scandal in Maldivian history.