Facilitated the exchange of USD 1 mln for Yameen, says former MP

Former Hoarafushi MP Mohamed Ismail 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.

Testifying as a defense witness at the Criminal Court on Saturday, Mohamed Ismail said President Yameen asked him to assist him in purchasing dollars at bank rate. He then called Yoosuf Naeem to arrange the transaction and informed Yameen that Yoosuf Naeem was ready to swap currency. After the transaction was completed, Yoosuf Naeem informed Mohamed Ismail that the transaction had been completed, he said.

When Mohamed Ismail testified that President Yameen had purchased dollars from Yoosuf Naeem, the prosecution asked whether Yusuf Naeem was authorized to deal in foreign currency. However, President Yameen's lawyers said the question was not relevant to the case. Chief Criminal Court Judge Ahmed Shakeel also ruled that the question could not be asked.

A man named Abdulla Rasheed also testified in defense of President Yameen, and said he took USD 1 million from Yameen's residence and handed it over to Yoosuf Naeem in September 2015. He said he transported the money to Yoosuf Naeem in a car and that he was accompanied by the current Deputy Mayor of Male' City, Ahmed Nareesh. When President Yameen said the bundles would have USD 1 million equivalent, he took his word for it and counted the money in bundles instead of single notes, he said.

The period Abdulla Rasheed is referring to is around the time when Maldivian currency notes were replaced with new notes. Abdulla Rasheed said he does not remember whether the money taken to Yoosuf Naeem was new or old currency. He said he did not remember how many bundles of cash were counted, but there was MVR 15,420,000 in the count. After receiving the money, Yoosuf Naeem signed a document stating that he had received the money, said Abdulla Rasheed.

At an earlier hearing, Nareesh also said that he counted the money at President Yameen's house and took it to Yoosuf Naeem.