Top court orders to release ex-pres' bank accounts

The Supreme Court of the Maldives has maintained the High Court’s verdict in declaring former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom’s bank account as having been frozen incorrectly.

Maldives Police Service requested the Criminal Court for an order to freeze President Yameen’s bank accounts in 2018 in relation to money laundering allegations against him. However, the High Court nullified the order issued by the Criminal Court during March last year. The case was then appealed at the Supreme Court by the state.

The verdict hearing for the appeal was held on Thursday, with Judges Aisha Sujun, Dr. Azmiralda Zahir and Husnu alSuood presiding over the bench.The top court ruled that the eight Maldives Islamic Bank accounts in President Yameen name that were frozen under the Criminal Court order were not in any way related to the MMPRC corruption case being investigated. Therefore, the Criminal Court’s order on the matter cannot be supported, and the High Court’s decision to nullify the lower court’s order will be maintained, said the bench. The court noted that the state had failed to prove in court how the eight accounts were linked to a specific transaction involving an escrow account, and ordered for the accounts to be released.

Judge Suood said the state can request to freeze accounts which can be used to collect funds payable to the state. However, if the account contains more than the payable amount, only the required amount can be frozen and the rest will be released, said the judge. He further pointed out that if all funds in an account are suspicious, it has to be officially informed to the court in writing, further noting that the state had requested to freeze all of President Yameen’s assets incorrectly.

Former President Yameen is currently serving a five-year sentence after being found guilty of money laundering in relation to the MMPRC corruption case. He was 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 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 top court verdict said that the state had not at any point noted to both the Criminal Court and the High Court any suspicion regarding the deposited funds.