ACC defends tourism graft report delay

Maldives' graft watchdog Monday defended the protracted delay in releasing the report into the largest corruption scandal in the archipelago's history by saying that it was still awaiting statements from key people related to the scandal.

Maldives Media and PR Corporation (MMPRC) had mediated the leasing of over 59 different tourist hotels, resorts and yacht marinas out of which 53 had been leased through an agreement with the tourism ministry.

The official audit report into the scandal, had revealed that over USD79 million had been embezzled through the state tourism promotion company.

Government had vowed to recover the funds but had said it was awaiting for the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) report to launch the effort.

ACC deputy chief Muavviz Rasheed said fresh evidence had come to light after the first draft of the report was finalized.

Rasheed highlighted the Al-Jazeera expose where the Doha-based broadcaster had aired secretly filmed interviews of top aides of former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor.

The funds received by MMPRC was distributed through a private company with strong links to the former vice president Adheeb.

Both Adheeb and the former MMPRC head Abdulla Ziyath have been convicted and sentenced to prison over the scandal.

Rasheed said the investigative team had to re-visit Adheeb and Ziyath after the Al-Jazeera expose which shed light on more links that had to be pursued.

"This is a huge investigation. This is our biggest investigation to date. We need a couple of more statements based on the new evidence to complete the investigation. We are trying to get those statements which is causing the delay," Rasheed said without identifying the suspects.

Rasheed also responded to concerns over the prolonged delay by assuring that the report would be comprehensive.

He, however could not give an exact date but insisted that the commission was trying to release the report before the end of the year.