Defence lawyers accused police Thursday of accessing social media accounts of deposed vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor.
The lawyers urged police to refrain from accessing their client’s social media accounts.
A much anticipated special audit into the finances of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), released Friday afternoon, showed that the funds embezzled through the corruption laden state tourism promotion company amounts to over USD79 million (MVR1.2 billion).
The special audit into the finances of MMPRC had shown that USD70.17 million (MVR1 billion) out of the total USD79 million (MVR1.2 billion) was siphoned off to accounts of SOF Private Limited.
SOF is owned by Mohamed Allam Latheef, one of the closest associates of deposed vice president Adheeb.
The company, in a statement Saturday evening, insisted that it had diverted the funds to top officials of the government including the president as directed.
“None of the funds had been used or retained by the company’s managing director, shareholders or family members of the company management,” the statement in local language Dhivehi read.
PPM had countered the allegations made by SOF saying that no funds obtained from illegal means had ever been accepted by the party. The party insisted that it had always upheld laws and regulations.
PPM also condemned comments by SOF that funds had been diverted to personal accounts of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim, and called on authorities to investigate the comments.
In its statement, SOF also backed allegations made by main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) that that key information had been omitted from the audit report and called for an independent audit of MMPRC.
Latheef is also one of the four shareholders of the company that owns Hibilhadhoo island in Baa Atoll, which is being developed as a resort, from where the armed forces had discovered a large weapons stash in October.
The military had confirmed that the two rifles found in Hibalhidhoo were from the state armoury.
Local authorities, meanwhile, has identified Latheef and seven others as wanted in two separate cases related to the explosion aboard the presidential speedboat late September confirmed as an attempt to kill the president. Interpol has issued red notices for Latheef, who had reportedly fled the Maldives after the blast and is residing in a European country, and three of the other suspects.
The weapons bust has been linked to the blast aboard the presidential speedboat, which has been identified by authorities as part of a ploy by then vice president Adheeb to assassinate the president.
Then vice president Adheeb was arrested on October 24 over the blast aboard the presidential speedboat carrying the president in September. He still remains in custody.
The former vice president has been accused of high treason; a charge he strongly denies.
President Yameen and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim were travelling to Male from the airport on September 28 when the explosion took place. They had returned home that morning after concluding their visit to Saudi Arabia to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage.
The president escaped unhurt, but the first lady and two presidential aides suffered serious injuries.
The audit into MMPRC, released Friday afternoon, also revealed that another USD7.50 million was diverted to Millennium Capital Management Private Limited, owned by a relative of Adheeb now in custody.
Hamid Ismail was taken back into custody Friday morning after an order signed by Criminal Court judge Abdul Bair Yousuf which said the prominent businessman was to be held at a location of the home ministry’s choosing until the end of his trial.
Hamid was transferred to house arrest after a Criminal Court order on January 17.
The repeal order by the Criminal Court comes after prosecutors late last month appealed the order that transferred Hamid to house arrest.
Hamid who is the brother-in-law of Adheeb has been charged with embezzling funds from the corruption laden state tourism company.
He was initially arrested on October 28 from a condominium in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. The arrest was made in a joint operation by the Maldives police and the counter terrorism division of the Malaysian police.
He was released from custody, but was later arrested again in a money laundering case involving MMPRC.
Police had said MMPRC had illegally transferred funds received as acquisition cost by leasing an island for resort development to a company directly linked to Hamid. The funds were then transferred to the accounts of several suspects in the blast, police said.
The special audit, conducted from November 17, 2013 — the day President Yameen assumed office — to October 27, 2015 — a day before the arrest of Adheeb over the blast, showed that the funds received through lease acquisition costs amount to USD65 million.
MMPRC has mediated the leasing of over 59 different tourist hotels, resorts and yacht marinas out of which 53 had been leased through an agreement with the tourism ministry. The rest were given out without any agreement with the ministry, the report showed.
Hamid had accompanied his brother-in-law Adheeb on his visit to China and later to Singapore as well.
While they were abroad, police and the armed forces had on several occasions jointly raided Shoora Manzil in Maafannu ward of capital Male following allegations of “destroying evidence” linked to the explosion. Some items were confiscated from the residence of Hamid, which houses an apartment used by the former vice president.
Maldives has recently adopted a new law on money laundering. Under the law, possession of a property with direct knowledge or suspicion that it had been acquired by committing a crime is punishable.
If convicted, Hamid faces a lengthy prison sentence and/or major fines.
In addition to Hamid, Adheeb and one of his closest associates have been implicated in the corruption scandal involving MMPRC.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and police are also conducting separate investigations into the company.
ACC had said its investigation concerning MMPRC is shaping up to be the biggest corruption investigation in its history. The commission had described the probe into MMPRC’s finances as being much wider in scope than previous investigations of a similar scale such as the leasing of Maldives main international airport to an Indian company and the deal with a Malaysian company to install a brand new border control system in the Maldives.
The primary suspects in the corruption scandal are deposed vice president Adheeb and one of his closest associates Abdulla Ziyath, who had until last week served as the head of MMPRC.
Ziyath, who served as the Managing Director of MMPRC until last week, was summoned to the police for questioning over corruption allegations related to the leasing of islands for resort development before being arrested in late October.
Charges have been filed against deposed vice president Adheeb and Ziyath in a case involving the leasing of an island and a lagoon in Male atoll. Adheeb was charged with abuse of power while Ziyath was charged with corruption.
In the second corruption lawsuit, Ziyath had been charged with embezzlement over USD 5 million (MVR 76.2 million) received as acquisition cost for an island leased for resort development. Adheeb and his relative Hamid Ismail had been accused of being accomplices in the crime.
Police had in early January forwarded another 25 cases of corruption against the former vice president for prosecution.
Police had in December forwarded cases implicating Adheeb and Ziyath in leasing of an additional 17 islands.
With those cases, the total number of cases against the former vice president now exceeds 40.
The Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office, however, had announced that a decision on filing charges in the corruption cases forwarded by police would be taken once the corruption watchdog completes its own investigation. It is to avoid any legal complications that might arise if charges are filed before that, it had said.
In addition to the corruption scandal, Adheeb has also been charged with terrorism in a separate case for allegedly possessing a handgun. The court began the trial early last month.
Police had also sought charges claiming that intelligence reports had been found in one of Adheeb’s many residences in capital Male raided by police. The officers who were on his payroll had confessed, police had said.
Since his arrest, Adheeb had been held at the Dhoonidhoo detention centre. He was initially held at a block allocated for high profile detainees, but was later moved to a standard cell after he was impeached from the vice president’s post in November.
Late last month, the former vice president was moved to the maximum security jail on the island of Maafushi in Kaafu Atoll after court ordered him be remanded till the end of this trial.