High Court overturns lower court decision to dismiss charges against Youth Minister

The High Court has ruled that the Criminal Court wrongfully dismissed the bribery case against Youth Minister Ahmed Mahloof.

The Prosecutor General's Office charged Mahloof 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 he was a recipient of corruption-tainted public funds. The Criminal Court proceedings began on February 10, where Mahloof denied the charges raised against him and said the evidence was not collected in a manner that would hold up in court.

The State has said Mahloof accepted US$ 33,000 while he was an MP to vote in favor of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) bill and remain a member of the then-ruling party, the Progressive Party Maldives. The State said that the bribe was given to Mahloof by former Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb through SOF Pvt Ltd.

The Criminal Court earlier this month dismissed the bribery charges raised against Mahloof. The presiding Judge, Mohamed Misbah, had said the evidence submitted to prove the charges are unsubstantial. The decision was appealed at the High Court by the State.

In the appeal hearing held Monday, the High Court said the lower court had not considered essential pieces of evidence the State had submitted against Mahloof.

Judge Fathmath Faruheeza said the lower court judge had not considered Mahoof's travel documents, financial statements of his family business, Mahloof's and his family's bank statements, and other documents as evidence.

The State said Mahloof utilized the funds he received for personal expenses, such as international trips. The Judge noted that the lower court did not consider any information presented by the State to prove the allegations. Her stance was that the case must be investigated again and that charges could be revised and submitted again.

However, her stance was not supported by the other presiding judges, Judge Hathif Hilmy and Judge Ali Sameer. Both judges were of the opinion that the lower court ruling must be overturned. Therefore, it was decided that the case would proceed again from where it was before the Criminal Court dismissed the charges.