Laptops provided by Correctional Services were bugged: Yameen's legal team

Attorneys representing jailed former president of the Maldives, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom has alleged that bugging devices were installed on the laptops provided by Maldives Correctional Services to listen to the audio clips presented as case files by the state.

In new charges raised against the former president, the Prosecutor General’s Office is seeking a conviction for money laundering and accepting bribery. The two charges were raised againt Yameen in relation to the leasing of Fushidhiggaru island of Raa atoll for resort development through Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).

When asked by the judge during the preliminary hearing held Thursday if all documents related to the case has been received by both the plaintiff and the defendant, President Yameen said he had not had the chance to listen to all of the audio clips submitted by the state. He added that the arrangements had not been facilitated by the relevant authorities.

Yameen’s legal team said while the complete documentation has not been received, the information has been relayed to the Criminal Court via a letter sent on Wednesday night. They also noted that although copies of the audio clips have been received, there are some difficulties in accessing said clips.

In this regard, while personal computers are not allowed to be brought into the prison, when the device containing the clips is mounted to the laptop provided by Maldives Correctional Services, several other files are created on it, said the defense. They also alleged that bugging devices had been installed on the laptop.

Yameen’s legal team requested the judge for permission to carry their own laptops to the jail. They also repeated complaints that an adequate environment was not provided to hold discussions between President Yameen and his legal team at the jail, and made a request to facilitate the meetings.

The Judge said own laptops and mobile devices can now be brought to hearings, and said meetings with lawyers can be held in any room in which hearings are conducted. No persons except the prisoner and his lawyers may be present in this room, and no cameras are installed in the room, said the judge.

However, President Yameen was not satisfied with the proposition and said he wished to meet with his lawyers in jail, and access files on their devices. He requested the judge to facilitate the arrangement. The state also agreed with Yameen’s proposition to be given a chance to look over the case documents in jail, and requested the court to permit the move. The judge then requested the defence to list all documents it had not received and asked the defence to confirm in writing when the documents are received.

During the hearing, Yameen expressed that he did not wish to sit in a different chamber from his defense team during the hearing. He said he wished to be able to discuss any developments with his legal team during the hearing. In response, the judge said although the arrangement can be accomodated, the defendant’s legal team had already stated that they do not wish to avail the opportunity. However, the option is still open, said the judge.

Before concluding the preliminary hearing, Judge Shakeel said another hearing has been scheduled for 1400hrs on December 6, 2020.

President Yameen is alleged to have received bribes amounting to US$ 1,117,000 through an individual named Ahmed Krik Riza, and is accused of laundering the funds via Sun Construction and Engineering, and Sun Investments. Money laundering and bribery charges have also been raised against Ahmed Krik Riza, and money laundering charges against Sun Construction and Engineering, Sun Investment. The Prosecutor General's Office said the state is working to recover US$ 38,689,425 in the case, including the US$ 1,349,885 involved in the crime as well as US$ 2,295,250 that was obtained through criminal activity, and an additional fine of US$ 34,689,425.

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.

Finding him guilty of the charges levied against him, the Criminal Court sentenced the former president to five years in jail and ordered him to pay US$ five million to the state after being found guilty of money laundering on November 28 last year.