MMPRC graft: State will not be prosecuting SOF Pvt Ltd

The State will not be seeking charges against SOF Pvt Ltd in relation to the MMPRC graft, the State has said.

MMPRC scandal is the biggest case of corruption in the Maldives to date, with millions in state funds earned via leasing islands and lagoons embezzled from Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC). State funds were laundered and deposited into multiple accounts through SOF Pvt Ltd.

After the corruption came to light, an Interpol red notice was issued to locate SOF's Mohamed Allam 'Moho' Latheef, Mohamed 'Oitte' Hussain and Ahmed Ishfah Ali. However, the notice was later cancelled, and the trio continue to reside abroad.

Former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom was convicted for money laundering by the Criminal Court in November 2018, after USD one million deposited into his account by SOF Pvt Ltd was deemed as laundered funds. The Criminal Court sentenced him to jail for five years, and ordered him to pay USD 5 million to the State. The verdict was maintained by the High Court, and an appeal has now been filed at the Supreme Court.

In an appeal hearing held at the Supreme Court on Monday, the judges made several inquiries from both the State and the defense. Judge Dr. Azmiralda Zahir inquired from the State whether it carried out any investigation into SOF Pvt and whether charges were being pursued against the company. She also inquired whether all funds in SOF accounts were corruption funds.

Responding to the question, Public Prosecutor Ahmed Naufal said the State had decided against prosecuting SOF Pvt Ltd as the State requires cooperation from those involved from SOF Pvt Ltd in building cases against those who have already been charged in relation to the graft. From the embezzled funds, only the transactions made through cheques can be traced by the State, he said.

When the case was first being investigated, SOF executives were not in the country, the State said. Noting that statement of two individuals from SOF were recorded in 2019, the public prosecutor said their statements were submitted as evidence when the case was being tried in the lower court. However, the court did not accept their statements as evidence, the State said.