Leaked statement casts shadow over ACC chief's integrity

A leaked statement to the police by Maldives' graft watchdog chief Hassan Luthfee has cast serious doubts over his integrity with many questioning the independence of the entire commission.

The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on February 5 had declared state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed, purged the Supreme Court by arresting two judges and the remaining political leaders and ultimately had the order revoked.

Yameen's half-brother and former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, chief justice Abdulla Saeed, top court judge Ali Hameed and four former government lawmakers have been charged with terrorism for their involvement in the coup plot through the February 1 court order.

The testimonies leaked on social media included several from lower court judges saying how the chief justice and judge Hameed had influenced their rulings. The leaked documents also included testimonies from top police officials and the intelligence report following the February 1 court order.

In his statement to the police believed to be for the investigation after the February 1 order, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) chief Luthfee said he was made aware of an attempt against the government made by the Supreme Court judges by a "friend".

Luthfee had also admitted that he was aware, the two top court judges along with the now jailed chief judicial administrator Hassan Saeed were trying to buy apartments from Malaysia funded by opposition Jumhoory Party (JP) leader and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim.

He said the unnamed "friend" had told him that the two top court judges were hatching a plot to overthrow the government. Luthfee in his statement admitted that he had a close personal relationship with the chief judicial administrator but insisted that he had not confided in him about the plot.

After he had heard about the imminent plot against the government, Luthfee had warned the two top court judges against such a move saying that they should know "who president Yameen is."

The leaked admission on social media has sparked public outcry with many questioning the integrity of the ACC chief.

Luthfee however remained unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts by AVAS to contact him.

Prosecutors had planned to present the secret testimonies against the suspects charged in the plot. It remains unclear whether the leak had come from the police, the prosecutor's office or the criminal court.

Police on Wednesday during an impromptu press conference confirmed that the leaked testimonies were indeed authentic. Police spokesperson Ahmed Shifan condemned the leak and assured that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.