'No official communication on Aarah lease': Adeeb

Former Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb has testified in the Criminal Court that there was no formal communication or transaction involved in the lease of V. Aarah.

Former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom is being tried in the Criminal Court on money laundering and accepting bribery charges in connection with the leasing of V. Aarah during his tenure as President. Former Felidhoo MP Yoosuf Naeem has also been charged with bribery alongside Yameen.

Testifying as a prosecution witness in the case on Tuesday, Adeeb said V. Aarah was under the control of former DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali before it was leased to Yoosuf Naeem. Adeeb said Yoosuf Naeem first approached him expressing interest in the island, and he informed Naeem that there was nothing he could do as the island was under the control of another person and another ministry.

According to Adeeb, following the interaction, Yameen called Adeeb and asked him to hand over the island to Yoosuf Naeem. In accordance with the order, the island was transferred under the Tourism Ministry and leased to Yoosuf Naeem through the MMPRC for MVR 2 million, he said. Adeeb said all communication regarding the lease took place entirely by phone, and no official communications had taken place.

Adeeb told the court that Yoosuf Naeem paid Yameen USD 1 million in exchange for leasing the island.

Responding to questions from the prosecution, Adeeb said Yameen had been giving instructions and influencing him in various matters since 2012. He said that when he was the Tourism Minister in the government of former President Mohamed Waheed, he was given instructions by Yameen on how to raise funds for the 2013 presidential election by leasing certain islands.

'[He] mostly exerted influence to raise money through [leasing] these islands through these schemes, that was the main purpose. The money was being raised for the 2013 Presidential Election and the Parliamentary Election following that. Additionally, [funds] to buy off MPs, to give bribes to officials in all government ministries, to deposit into his own account, to bring amendments to the Constitution, and to impeach the unfaithful then-Vice President,' Adeeb said.

The prosecution requested an opportunity to hear call recordings of conversations between President Yameen and Adeeb to prove that Yameen had been exerting influence in various ways in the past. However, Chief Justice Ahmed Shakeel did not grant the request. The Judge said recordings dating before the incident in question could not be played in a hearing that was being live-streamed in the trial of an incident dating back to 2015.

Adeeb's witness statement was preceded by that of former MMPRC Managing Director Abdullah Ziyath. Although the defense requested to disclose the plea agreement between the State, Adeeb, and Ziyath, the Judge said it was irrelevant to the case. Yoosuf Naeem's lawyer waived the opportunity to question Ziyath and Adeeb, stating that he did not believe either witness would answer any questions fairly if the agreement details were not disclosed.

Allaam's testimony will not be recorded

The prosecution has decided not to take the testimony of Allaam Latheef, the Managing Director of SOF Private Limited, the company used to circulate funds involved in the MMPRC scam. The State said Allaam sent a letter stating that he would not be testifying in the case.

According to the letter, several complaints were submitted to various authorities in the UK, where Allaam is currently residing, after Mohamed Hussain (Oitte), an official of SOF Pvt Ltd, testified in the MMPRC graft trial. The letter stated that it was becoming difficult for Oitte, who also resides in the UK, to live in the country, and that he does not wish for his life in the UK to be jeopardized. Therefore, the prosecution has decided not to take Allaam's testimony.

The testimony of all the witnesses submitted by the prosecution was taken on Tuesday. The next hearing will be held tomorrow, where defense witnesses will give their testimony.