Maldives court delays sentencing of graft whistleblower

Gasim Abdul Kareem

Gasim Abdul Kareem

A Maldives court on Monday postponed the sentencing top bank official responsible for leaking documents related to the largest corruption scandal in the history of the archipelago.

Gasim Abdul Kareem, a former assistant manager at the Bank of Maldives’ Faafu Atoll Nilandhoo Branch was arrested in February for unlawfully disclosing private information.

He is facing two counts and the court had ended the hearings before scheduling the sentencing hearing for September 26. However, his lawyer on Monday had said the criminal court had postponed the sentencing to November.

The reason behind the sudden postponement is unclear, but it comes in the wake of a public campaign led by Transparency Maldives calling on the authorities to drop the charges against Gasim.

Transparency Maldives has insisted that Gasim was a whistle-blower and did not deserve to be punished for exposing corruption.

Gasim’s trial had been held behind closed doors on request of prosecutors.

An official audit report had revealed that over USD79 million had been embezzled through the state tourism promotion company.

Maldives Media and PR Corporation (MMPRC) had 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 funds received by MMPRC was distributed through a private company.

Transparency International meanwhile has called on the government to dismiss the case against Gasim.

“Kareem is a man who has taken action against what he believed to be a corrupt practice. This behaviour should be praised not punished. If money that should be used to benefit the people of the Maldives – to fund public services, for example – is being siphoned off to fund the luxury lifestyle of the corrupt, the people have a right to know,” said Cobus de Swardt, managing director of Transparency International.

“The prosecutor general should dismiss this case. Kareem’s actions deserve admiration and he is entitled to protection, not prosecution.”

Under Section 44 of the Maldives Banking Act “actions taken in good faith in the course of the implementation of measure for the prevention of corruption and countering money laundering and financing of terrorism pursuant to laws or regulations dealing with such matters” cannot be considered unlawful.

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