Maldives graft watchdog vows probe into China funded projects

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim inaugurates the new terminal project at INIA. PHOTO/PRESIDENT'S OFFICE

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim inaugurates the new terminal project at INIA. PHOTO/PRESIDENT’S OFFICE

Maldives graft watchdog on Monday vowed to investigate the corruption allegations surrounding two major China funded projects.

Mihaaru has found that the landmark over water bridge connecting the capital Male to the airport island Hulhule and the airport expansion projects were awarded to Chinese firms with a commission to the then vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor who had negotiated the agreements on behalf of the government.

A copy of an agreement linked to the deal has revealed that Adheeb had received a commission of two percent from the loan amount for the two projects worth USD445 million. The deal is believed to have been struck to award the projects being funded by the loan granted by the China government to Chinese firms.

Adheeb who is serving 33 years in prison on three separate charges including an unrelated corruption charge, stood to receive USD8.9 million from the deal.

However according to the document which is believed to have been recovered during a raid on properties linked to the then VP following a blast aboard the presidential speedboat last September did not specify whether the commission had been paid.

Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) vice president Muavviz Rasheed said the commission was already probing several deals linked to the then VP on suspicion of corruption.

However, Muavviz admitted that the bridge and airport projects had not been flagged for possible corruption prior to the media report.

“But we look into that as well,” he said.

The bridge dubbed China-Maldives Friendship bridge is being financed with USD126 million in grant aid and a concessionary loan from China along with USD12.6 million from the Maldivian state budget, government had said earlier.

The contractor chosen for the project, CCCC Second Harbour Engineering, was blacklisted by the World Bank over fraudulent practices during a road improvement project in the Philippines. But the government had insisted that it did not have any role in the bidding process, which was conducted by the Chinese government.

In December last year, Chinese EXIM Bank had granted a USD373 million loan for upgrading and developing the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport

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