Verdict on ex-pres' money laundering trial to pronounced on Nov 28

Criminal Court has made the decision to continue former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom's money laundering trial from where it was let off at the time of presiding Judge Ahmed Hailam's suspension.

Chief Judge of Criminal Court Ahmed Hailam initially presided over the high profile case before he was suspended by the Judicial Service Commission mere hours before a verdict was set to be delivered, over a controversial Victory Day greeting shared by the judge to a social network group. Judge Ali Rasheed Hussain was then appointed as the Acting Chief Judge in Hailam's absence.

According to Criminal Procedural Laws, in the case the judge before whom a trial began cannot proceed with a trial for any reason, a judge assigned to the court shall proceed with the trial or will be granted a fresh trial. Under the article, the power to make the decision lies with the Chief Judge / Acting Chief Judge of the court.

After the former president requested the Criminal Court for a bench to oversee his case, Judge Ali Rasheed Hussain made the decision to grant the request, and formed a five-judge bench to preside over the case.

The bench is made of up Acting Chief Judge Ali Rasheed, Judge Ahmed Shakeel, Judge Mohamed Sameer, Judge Ali Adam and Judge Hussain Faiz Rashad.

A hearing in the former president's trial was held Sunday afternoon with the full bench. Judge Ali Rasheed, who was heading the bench began the hearing and shared details on the changes brought to the bench. He then clarified how both the prosecution and defense wished to proceed with the case, as the Criminal Procedure Law states that the trial can either be started afresh or continued from where it was left off.

The attorney representing the Prosecutor General Aishath Mohamed said the prosecution was ready to proceed in any manner that the judge saw fit, while President Yameen's attorney Ali Shah requested to start the trial afresh.

Judge Hussain Rasheed said the five judges on the bench discussed the matter extensively and concluded that as witness testimonies had already been recorded, it was best to continue the trial from where it was left off, and decided against a re-trial. The trial is currently awaiting a verdict.

When asked if either party had any additional concerns, PG attorney Aishath Mohamed said the state had nothing more to add. However, President Yameen's lawyers raised an issue with Judge Ali Rasheed sitting on the bench, stating that President Yameen had objections to the judge, and that the defense does not believe the judge would be fair. President Yameen then requested for the judge to be excused from the bench.

The court then went into a 10-minute recess while the bench deliberated on the matter. After re-convening, the bench declared that the circusmtance does not call for Judge Ali Rasheed to excuse himself from the bench.

Judge Ali Rasheed then announced that a hearing will be held on 28th November, during which a verdict will be delivered.

President Yameen is accused of defying the agreement between himself and the Anti-Corruption Commission, which stipulated the former president to move funds in his Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB) account that are suspected of having being laundered, into an escrow account set up between the two parties.

While two cheques worth US$ 1 million were deposited into Yameen's MIB account by a private company named SOF Pvt Ltd, the funds are said to be embezzled state funds that were to be received by Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Company as acquisition cost for leasing islands for tourism purpose.

ACC instructed Yameen to move the deposited funds to the escrow account, however, President Yameen transferred US$ 1 million from his Bank of Maldives (BML) account instead of from the account in question. The transferred funds are reported to have been deposited into President Yameen's BML account by former Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer.

Yameen is accused of attempting to cover up the source and trail of the original funds in his MIB account in an attempt to launder the funds. The original funds deposited by SOF Pvt Ltd were moved to President Yameen's investment account at Maldives Islamic Bank.