Delivered MVR equivalent of USD 1 mln for Yameen, testifies Male' Dept. Mayor

Male' City's Deputy Mayor Ahmed Nareesh has testified as a defense witness in the court case against former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom and former Felidhoo MP Yoosuf Naeem.

Yameen has been charged with accepting bribes and money laundering in relation to the lease of V. Aarah island. Yoosuf Naeem is being tried alongside him on bribery charges.

The prosecution alleges that Yoosuf Naeem paid Yameen USD 1 million in bribes in exchange for leasing V. Aarah to him. However, both defendants told the court that the transaction in question was a currency exchange transaction. Nareesh was produced as the first defense witness to prove the claim.

At a hearing held at the Criminal Court on Wednesday, Nareesh said he himself delivered the Maldivian Rufiya equivalent for USD 1 million to Yoosuf Naeem. He said he delivered the money to Yoosuf Naeem at the behest of Yameen.

"One day, President Yameen called me and said, Nareesh, I need you to complete a big task for me. He asked me to come to G. Dhoovehi [Yameen's residential home at the time]. I asked President Yameen what the task was, and he told me that he purchased US dollars from Yoosuf Naeem and that the equivalent Maldivian Rufiya needed to be delivered to Yoosuf Naeem. He asked me to do that for him," Nareesh told the court.

Nareesh said he and Yameen's driver, Abdulla Rasheed, counted the money before it was delivered to Yoosuf Naeem. Yameen then signed the document of purchase of dollars for MVR 15,420,000 (fifteen million four hundred and twenty thousand). The money was in the living room of the house and was carried in two bags, he said. Nareesh said they took the two bags to Yoosuf Naeem's house and that Yoosuf Naeem counted the money in front of them.

Nareesh added that he had handed over money to different people on several occasions at Yameen's request. Responding to a question from the prosecution, Nareesh said Yameen contacted him for such tasks because of his close relationship and trust between them.

The defense objected to many questions asked by the prosecution. The defense objected to questions such as whether Yameen was authorized to buy and sell dollars and whether the transactions were being conducted with a permit from the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA). The defense also objected to the prosecution asking why Nareesh did not appear before the police during the investigation stage and offer the information he had just disclosed and how Yameen had obtained the money in question.

After recording Nareesh's testimony, Chief Justice Ahmed Shakeel said the testimony of three defense witnesses would be taken at a hearing scheduled for Thursday. Hearings have also been scheduled for the 25th and 29th of this month.