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Maldives' Yameen money laundering case moves to criminal court

Maldives' Yameen money laundering case moves to criminal court
Yameen, who lost the presidential election to Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in September 2018, is accused of benefiting from one of the biggest corruption scandals. Image Credit: Pixabay

Former President of the Maldives Abdulla Yameen on Wednesday was charged with money laundering in a case related to lease of tropical islands and alleged transfer of $1 million government funds into his personal bank account. "We have charged Abdulla Yameen with money laundering and submitted the case to the criminal court," the Prosecutor General's spokesperson Ahmed Thaufeeg told Efe news.

Yameen, who lost the presidential election to Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in September 2018, is accused of benefiting from one of the biggest corruption scandals in the island's history as $90 million was allegedly laundered from the state tourism board. According to prosecutors, the investigation has found that SOF, a private company, was used to syphon the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) funds.

The tourism board had collected the money through the lease of islands and lagoons for development as holiday resorts. The police accused the former President of lying to the anti-corruption watchdog. "SOF, which benefited from the stolen MMPRC funds, transferred $1 million to Yameen's account at the Maldives Islamic Bank. Yameen was ordered to return the money," the police said.

According to the investigation, Yameen did not return the money as ordered by the Anti-Corruption Commission but made profitable financial transactions with that. The police also asked the Prosecutor General to press charges against Yameen's lawyer and former minister Aishath Azima for allegedly lying and assisting in the money laundering.

Yameen has denied all the charges, including that funds from the tourism board were deposited into his bank account, and accused the government of trying to influence the parliamentary polls, scheduled for April 6. The former President claimed he had transferred the money as per the agreement with the anti-graft commission and the authorities were now "picking a procedural point".

After his questioning last month, he told reporters Outside the police headquarters that $1 million was transferred to an escrow account of the corruption watchdog, but the police found that the money came from Yameen's other bank account. Contesting the charges, his legal team said the Anti-Corruption Commission had been "unable to prove that the $1 million from SOF transferred to Yameen's account was state funds".

Yameen's bank accounts were frozen in December with more than $6.5 million in the dollar and the local currency as the police launched a probe into campaign contributions and $1 million from SOF.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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