Civil Court rules against BML in data disclosure case

Civil Court ruled on Wednesday that Parliament Commissions and other investigative authorities do not require a court order to obtain information from banks, and that a written request is sufficient.

Civil Court passed the ruling in regard to a case filed by the Bank of Maldives (BML) against the Presidential Commission on State Assets Recovery over their request for customer information from the bank. The Bank requested the Civil Court to issue a court order that action may not be taken against its employees for refusing to disclose customer information with the commission.

In the past, the bank provided information to investigative authorities on their customers under Article 41 of the Banking Act. However, the bank stopped providing information under the Act after the High Court issued a ruling overturning the order to freeze the accounts of former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom in relation to the MMPRC graft.

The ruling prompted a difference of opinion between the bank and investigative authorities on the policy the bank should follow in providing information to authorities.

The ruling passed by Judge Abdulla Ali gave strength to the State's defense, referring to the ruling issued by the High Court over President Yameen's account freeze case which ruled that the the order issued to freeze the account was against procedure.

In the referred case, the court did not note that the bank had done any wrong or followed a wrong procedure in providing information.

The judge noted that the Banking Act stated the procedure to follow in providing information, and that Article 41 of the act said customer information should be provided if a written request is received from a designated criminal investigative authority. While the article clearly states as such, it does not state that a court order is required in addition to a written request.

According to Article 72) d) of the Criminal Procedure Law, the provision of accounts, deposits, trusts, and safe deposit boxes of customers when a written request is sent for the investigation of criminal offences is not prohibited.

The presidential commission established by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has the authorities of an investigative body.

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) also intervened in the case as BML has ceased providing information to the commission.

In Wednesday's ruling, the Civil Court ruled that there is no legal basis to rule that a court order is required to obtain the information form the bank. Therefore, it is legally mandatory upon BML to provide the information as requested by the commission, it said.

BML has stated that they will not be appealing the Civil Court ruling at a higher court.