Parliament to summon governor, ex-FIU head for questioning

Central Bank Maldives Monetary Authority's governor Ahmed Naseer and the former head of the authority's Financial Intelligence Unit Abdulla Ashraf will be summoned to Parliament's Public Finance Committee for questioning regarding allegations made against the governor by Ashraf.

Both Naseer and Ashraf were previously summoned to the committee during the 18th Parliament over the FIU issue, however,the parliament has not taken a stance on the issue thus far. The FIU issue came to the attention of the Public Finance Committee for a second time when the former FIU head sent a letter to the committee making several allegations against Governor Naseer.

During Monday's committee meeting, Hulhudhoo MP Ilyas Labeeb noted that Naseer had responded to Ashraf's allegations through a letter sent to the committee. Therefore, accusations of both parties need to be discussed separately and both parties need to be summoned to the committee for questioning, the MP said.

"This is a very serious issue. We are not conducting a criminal investigation, however, if these issues persist in the central bank we need to investigate the matter. We have to ensure that such people are competent and trustworthy to assume their positions in the authorities." said Ilyas.

Members of the committee did not object to summoning Ashraf and Naseer. Hanimadhoo MP Abdul Gafoor Moosa said since many work had been done by the 18th Parliament on the same issue, it is important for the current parliament to go through the records of how the issue was handled by the previous parliament.

Since all the members were in agreement, committee chair Kimbidhoo MP Mohamed Nashiz made the decision to summon Ashraf and Naseer to the committee in the coming week.

Ashraf's allegations

The letter that Ashraf sent to the Finance Committee stated that Maldives Islamic Bank had informed FIU that MVR 22.5 million was deposited into the account of former president Yameen Abdul Gayyoom, two weeks ahead of the 2018 presidential election. When the matter was reported to the Maldives Police Service, Naseer made a call to show his disapproval. Ashraf was fired from his position in FIU after he informed the matter to the police, he said.

The matter of US$ one million being deposited into an escrow account set up between president Yameen and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was investigated by FIU, and the report on FIU's findings were shared with then ACC president Hassan Luthufee. This move also prompted Naseer' disapproval, alleged Ashraf. It was FIU's report that revealed that the funds were transferred into the escrow account against the agreement between Yameen and ACC.

Ashraf also accused that Naseer had reprimanded FIU's move to report Yameen's case with the 2018 presidential election looming up ahead. Naseer had stated that the situation was not properly assessed before authorities were notified, and requested to refrain from reporting high profile cases until after the presidential election, said Ashraf.

The Governor's response

Central bank Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) recently issued a statement defending the governor against Ashraf's allegations. In the statement, MMA said Ashraf had faileed to carry outhis responsibilities during his time as FIU head.

The authority stated FIU is an independent body mandated to take action on suspicious transactions by informing relevant authorities. However, the FIU had failed to promptly inform relevant authorities of several such suspicious transactions, especially while Ashraf was the heading the unit.

During June 2018, an influential politician had transferred a large sum of funds to the former president's bank account, however, FIU delayed notifying authorities of the transaction and had not taken action on the issue, said MMA. The information came to light while Ashraf was out of the country, they added.