Bribery charges have been raised against Youth Minister Ahmed Mahloof.
The Prosecutor General's Office confirmed that Mahloof was charged with accepting bribery under the Prevention and Prohibition of Corruption Act. He was charged after the police, the Asset Recovery Commission, and the Anti-Corruption Commission's joint investigation into the MMPRC graft found Mahloof was a recipient of corruption-tainted public funds.
ACC sought charges against Mahloof on June 9 this year. The charges have been raised after long delays in prosecuting met with public criticism.
When the Anti-Corruption Commission forwarded the case to the Prosecutor General's Office for charging, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih suspended the minister. He later lifted the suspension on October 9 as no charges had been raised even after four months.
A statement released by ACC after forwarding Mahloof's case to the Prosecutor General's Office 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 shows the two events are linked, ACC said.
ACC further noted that Mahloof had claimed the money 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 Mahloof. However, there is no evidence to prove that such an exchange had taken place, and witness statements and other evidence prove the money Mahloof received was a bribe paid by Adeeb.
In response to ACC's statement, Mahloof said the financial transaction in question is a valid currency exchange transaction through his brother, Mubeen Ali, when he was running a retail shop, 'The Jeans'. The charges, and the case in whole, is a political move, he had claimed. Mahloof on Wednesday said he would not step down from his post as the charges raised against him were a personal attack by the Prosecutor General, Hussain Shameem.