Maldives government 'must act on new details in corruption scandal'

By agency reporter
February 19, 2019

The global anti-corruption coalition Transparency International, together with its national chapter in the Maldives, has urged President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih not to let political position or status become a ticket to impunity for those involved in grand corruption. Solih’s recently elected government should fulfil its campaign pledge of zero tolerance for corruption by holding to account all those implicated in the MMPRC scandal. The process should not end with the arrest on 18 February 2019 of former president Abdulla Yameen.

Named after the parastatal Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, which gave out undervalued leases on islands and reefs in return for alleged bribes and kickbacks, the MMPRC scheme was first exposed in investigations by Al Jazeera in 2016, then detailed island-by-island by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) in 2018.

On 14 February 2019, the Maldives Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) published a list of 155 individuals and companies and the amounts each had received from a private bank used as a conduit for illicit payments. The main account belonged to the music group Scores of Flair, comprised of the former tourism minister and former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Ghafoor and his friends. Those named as receiving payments include politicians from across the political spectrum.

“We’ve always known that the MMPRC corruption scandal is too large a crime to have been carried out only by a few individuals,” said Mariyam Shiuna, executive director of Transparency Maldives. “The ACC list is a sad confirmation of the extent to which powerful people in the Maldives have abused their positions, and the extent to which grand corruption has played a role in luxury tourism development in the Maldives. The state must now act to ensure that all those who have abused their authority are held accountable.”

Specifically, Transparency Maldives urges that the heads of Maldives Monetary Authority, Bank of Maldives, Maldives Islamic Bank and the board members of MMPRC should be investigated. Those alleged to be complicit should be immediately prosecuted in a fair trial to determine the truth.

The government should also strengthen the country’s banking system to make it less susceptible to abuse for corrupt purposes, according to Transparency Maldives. Legal action to recover money and property stolen from the public should also start immediately.

Transparency International further notes that the ACC list indicates that transfers of US dollars were made into accounts in United States banks, and therefore urges the Maldives government to request the assistance of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation Kleptocracy Unit to investigate these payments.

* Transparency International https://www.transparency.org/

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