Maldives ruling party explains confusion over graft money in pres account

Maldives ruling party on Wednesday made another attempt to clear up the confusion surrounding the USD1 million deposited into incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's personal bank account linked to the biggest corruption scandal in the country's history.

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.

The funds received by MMPRC was distributed through a private company called SOF Private Limited with strong links to the now jailed former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor.

Shortly after the scandal was uncovered, USD1 million was deposited by SOF to president Yameen's personal account at the Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB).

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) deputy leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla had earlier claimed that the money had been seized by the country's graft watchdog for the investigation.

However, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had refuted the claims insisting that it had not seized any funds linked to the graft scandal.

Responding to the confusion, chief government lawmaker Ahmed Nihan Hussain Manik admitted to local reporters late Wednesday that the money was still in the president's account but had been left "untouched" until the investigation can be completed.

"ACC doesn't keep recovered graft money. It's not in their mandate. It can only be done by institutions such as MIRA [Maldives Inland Revenue Authority]," the Villi-Maafannu lawmaker explained.

According to the outspoken lawmaker the ACC has shelved the case key suspects remain at-large.

"Though the case has been shelved for now, the investigation is yet to be completed. The people that needs to be questioned are hiding abroad. That's why the investigation has stalled," Nihan said.

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