Questions raised over cheques linked to ex-pres' money laundering case

Questions have been raised over the USD one million cheque deposited into SOF Private Limited's bank account by Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) as the acquisition fee for Ga. Vodamula.

Former President of the Maldives, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom, is currently serving a five-year sentence after being convicted on money laundering charges in 2018. He was convicted on money laundering charges when USD one million out of the land acquisition fee for Vodumulaa island entered the former president's account.

Investigations found that the acquisition fee for Vodumula, which was to enter MMPRC accounts, first entered SOF accounts, and USD one million was then deposited into Yameen's account.

The High Court supported the Criminal Court's money laundering conviction, after which the case was promptly appealed at the Supreme Court by Yameen's legal team. While the appeal hearings have concluded at the top court, the court held an additional hearing on Thursday as the judges' bench required more information on some issues.

During Thursday's hearing, Judge Mahaz Ali Zahir noted that the cheque number on the deposit slip did not match the cheque number stated on SOF's bank statements. Yameen's legal team had previously raised the issue.

The defense received the information when the Supreme Court identified the cheque number in court documents for MMPRC's former Managing Director, Abdulla Ziyath's High Court appeal on his corruption case and shared it with the defense.

During Thursday's hearing, the bench first inquired from the State regarding the inconsistency in cheque numbers and asked if the cheque in question was the same cheque referred in Yameen's money laundering case.

In response, State attorney Ahmed Naufal said the numbers on the cheque and the account statement did not match due to a clerical error that occurred when entering the cheque number. The State said the numbers 4 and 5 were swapped when entering the information, leading to the error. He added that the State had not identified the mistake during the investigation and later questioned the investigating officer when it came to light. Naufal said the investigating officer had also confirmed it was a clerical error.

Naufal said although there is an error in the cheque number, the charges still hold, and Yameen will be convicted, as the money that entered his account were suspicious funds.

Judge Mahaz also noted that the State had not submitted the cheque in question in relation to Yameen's case, although it was submitted for Ziyath's trial. In response, the State attorney said two different teams of attorneys are working on the two cases, and the documents pertaining to each case are confidential.

The defense's lawyer, Abdulla Shiyaz, said both the former president and Ziyath's case were investigated by the police. He noted that when the police share investigation documents with the Prosecutor General's Office, and that these documents must be provided to the defense. While the State claims the inconsistency in the cheque numbers is a clerical error, he asked why the State had not mentioned the mistake during the course of the trial.

Concluding Thursday's hearing, Judge Mahaz said the court would reach a verdict before it goes on recess next month.