MALE – A former president of the Maldives, Abdulla Yameen, was charged with money laundering on Wednesday in a case related to lease of tropical islands and $1 million of government funds allegedly transferred into his personal bank account.
Yameen, who lost a presidential election in September last year to Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, is accused of benefiting from the so-called biggest corruption scandal in the island’s history as $90 million were allegedly laundered from a state-owned tourism board.
“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.
According to the prosecutors, investigation has found that SOF, a private company, was used to siphon off the funds of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation.
The board had generated the money through the lease of islands and lagoons for the development of tourist holiday resorts.
Police have accused the former president of lying to the anti-corruption watchdog.
“The 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 state money,” the police said.
The investigation found that Yameen had not returned the money as ordered by the Anti-Corruption Commission, but instead carried out profitable financial transactions with the money.
The police have also asked the Prosecutor General to press charges against Yameen’s lawyer and former minister Aishath Azima for allegedly lying and assisting with the money laundering.
Yameen has denied all the charges, including that the funds from the tourism board were deposited into his bank account, and accuses the government of trying to influence the parliamentary polls scheduled for April 6.
He claimed he had transferred the money as per the agreement with the anti-graft commission and the authorities were now “picking a procedural point.”
Outside the police headquarters last month after his questioning, he told reporters that $1 million were transferred to an escrow account of the corruption watchdog, but the police found that the money came from Yameen’s other bank account.
His legal team has challenged the authorities, saying the ACC has been “unable to prove that the $1 million from SOF transferred to Yameen’s account were state funds.”
The former president’s bank accounts were frozen in December with more than $6.5 million in US dollars and local currency as police launched a probe into campaign contributions and $1 million from SOF.