Money laundering appeal: Statements are 'influenced', claims ex-pres

Jailed former president of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom has stated that those who gave statements against him in his money laundering trial gave their statements under the current government’s influence.

Former President Yameen was accused of defying an 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 been laundered, into an escrow account set up between the two parties. Failing to do so, and moving the funds in question into an investment account, the former president deposited funds from another source into the escrow account.The former president was jailed for five years and ordered to pay US$ five million to the state after the Criminal Court found him guilty of money laundering in November 2019. The verdict has since been appealed at the High Court, and a hearing regarding the appeal was held Tuesday afternoon.

Speaking at Tuesday’s hearing, President Yameen said the statements being given against him by former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Ghafoor, former president of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Muawwiz Rasheed and Managing Director of SOF Pvt Ltd, Allam Latheef regarding his case were being given under an agreement with the government. Yameen said the government has promised to send Adeeb abroad for medical treatment in exchange for his statements, while the government has agreed to drop the charges against Ziyath and Allam for their statements.

The former president said he had obtained a very important document which is part of the money laundering investigation, and that the document has now been submitted at the court. The document is the statement recorded by the police with regard to the investigation of the money laundering case, given by Allam Latheef. The statement makes no mention of the sale of ‘Vodumula’ island, the funds from which are said to have been laundered.

“The statement says Allam was in Adeeb’s presence when I called him, and that Adeeb had put the call on speaker phone. The statement further says that I called Adeeb regarding funds that he owes me, and that I was displeased with Adeeb during the call,” said Yameen.

The statement further said that Adeeb instructed Allam to pay US$ 1 million to the president after the call ended, said Yameen. Therefore, it is impossible for Yameen to tell authorities the source of the funds deposited to his account by SOF, said Yameen. The former president reiterated that he was innocent and that no wrongdoing or misconduct had taken place with regard to the transaction. If he had committed a wrong, he would not have appealed the case at the High Court, he added.

Yameen has previously stated that the funds deposited into his account were political donations made by well wishers. Lead counsel of Yameen’s legal team, former Vice President Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed during the hearing said the state had been unable to prove that the funds deposited into Yameen’s account were the funds received as acquisition cost for the sale of Vodumula island. While the case required a joint investigation, Maldives Police Service did not follow the legal procedures in investigating the case, he added. While the police had not questioned the former president regarding the funds acquired from the Vodumula sale during the investigation, the charges raised against him by the state are against the elements of the case, said Jameel. Based on these grounds, he requested the court to dismiss the Criminal Court’s verdict against Yameen.

State prosecutors said although President Yameen claims that the funds were donations from political supporters, it is difficult to believe that this may be the truth as the defense had been unable to prove the source of the funds in court. While there were no upcoming elections scheduled around that time, and as Yameen was the President of the Maldives at the time, any donations must be personally accepted by the Yameen within the law, said the state. Additionally, the amount of funds deposited into his account were staggeringly high compared to average political donations, said the state, noting that money had been deposited into an investment account in Yameen’s name. Therefore, there are no grounds to nullify the Criminal Court’s verdict, said the state.

A verdict will be made during the next hearing. However, the date on which the hearing will be held has not been announced.