Youth minister's suspension lifted after four months

Youth Minister Ahmed Mahloof has returned to work after his suspension was lifted on Sunday.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih suspended Mahloof on June 9 after the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) requested the Prosecutor General's Office to press charges against the minister over alleged links to the MMPRC graft. ACC made the request after a joint investigation conducted by Maldives Police Service, the Asset Recovery Commission and ACC into the MMPRC graft found that Mahloof was a recipient of stolen public funds. Mahloof has remained in suspension for four months.

AVAS has learnt that Mahloof's suspension was lifted as no charges have been raised against the minister despite four months having passed since the suspension.

President Solih has said any state officials linked to the graft will be terminated from their posts if they are charged and court cases are filed against them. Mahloof has returned to work as the state does not have enough evidence to build a case against him. While the Prosecutor General's Office have been working on obtaining evidence, several mistakes made during investigation have come to light over the past four months.

ACC said Mahloof had accepted US$ 33,000 while he was an MP to vote in favor of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) bill as well to remain as a member of the then-ruling party, the Progressive Party of Maldives. The statement said Mahloof flew to the Maldives from Malaysia for the sole purpose of attending the parliament sitting held on August 27, 2014, during which the SEZ bill vote was taken. Messages exchanged between former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Ghafoor and Ahmed Mahloof following the vote and the date on which a cheque issued by SOF Pvt Ltd was deposited into Mahloof's account show the two events are linked, ACC said.

However, Mahloof denied the allegations and said the funds deposited into his account was a currency exchange transaction and a 'Payment Received' document that was said to have been issued by SOF Pvt Ltd was submitted as proof by Mahloof. However, there is no evidence to prove that such an exchange took place, and witness statements, as well as other evidence, prove the money Mahloof received was a bribe paid by Adeeb, ACC had said. ACC therefore requested the Prosecutor General's Office to charge Mahloof under Article 2, a) of the Prevention and Prohibition of Corruption Act.

ACC also noted that Mahloof had attempted to cover up the corruption by providing false information and documents to ACC. While Mahloof had claimed he paid in cash the equivalent of the exchanged currency, his statement is untrue, ACC noted. Therefore, ACC also requested the Prosecutor General's Office to charge Mahloof under Article 521's a) and b) of the Penal Code as Mahloof made a written false statement with the purpose of misleading a public official.

Mahloof was once before suspended over the same matter on February 14, 2019. However, the suspension was lifted on April 16, 2019 after the police and ACC said there were no issues with the transaction.