Former chief auditor Niyaz has been forced to flee the country ‘in fear of his life’ after repeated threats over the information he had provided for the Al Jazeera documentary which has exposed mass corruption, abuse of power and international money laundering in the archipelago.
Niyaz had fled to neighbouring Sri Lanka with his family amidst rumours of his imminent arrest.
Created by the Emmy and BAFTA winning Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, the documentary titled ‘Stealing Paradise’ contains leaked documents, text messages and secretly filmed confessions that has blown the lid off mass corruption and abuse of power in the archipelago.
According to the Doha based broadcaster, the leak is the contents of three mobile phones which it says belonged to the now jailed former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor.
Niyaz who had spearheaded the audit report into the largest embezzlement of state funds in the country’s history told Al Jazeera that he had shared the information directly with president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
“When I personally informed him, he basically ignored everything,” he said.
The 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 with strong links to Adheeb.
Soon after the report was publicized, Niyaz was booted out of office after the government through its overwhelming control in parliament amended the audit law.
Niyaz told Mihaaru that immigration officials had tried to prevent him from leaving.
“I told them they cannot withhold my passport and prevent me from leaving without a court order. I’m lucky that I was able to leave,” he added.
The evidence uncovered by Al Jazeera also showed that Adheeb had conspired with the police to silence the then Auditor General.
“You guys need to focus on this auditor general,” Adheeb says in a text message to one of the SO officers.
“No worries,” a police special operations named Abdulla Didi replies.
Then quite alarmingly the ex-VP suggests to “light up” the Auditor General’s office which employs over 200 staff as “he is continuously making trouble for us.”
However, a second police officer quickly highlights the risk.
“We checked that place. Lots of camera[s] everywhere,” an officer named Saif Hussain says.
But the ex-vice president was adamant and insists that Niyaz must be stopped.
“Ok. But need to blast it at any cost,” Adheeb replies in another text message.
“Sure. Lets do it,” was Hussain’s reply.
In addition to Niyaz, Zaheena Rasheed, the editor of Maldives Independent, a prominent English-language news website who had also provided interviews to Al Jazeera had also left the country days before its release.
Zaheena who had reportedly aided in the making of the documentary is also believed to be in Sri Lanka.
Hours after the documentary was released, police had raided the offices of Maldives Independent allegedly over a plot to overthrow the government.
Maldives government have denied the allegations, labeling the documentary as biased and in pursuance of an already declared agenda against the government.