Maldives’ jailed ex-VP convicted of tourism graft, gets eight more years in prison

From left to right: Former MMPRC head Ziyath, former VP Adheeb and prominent businessman Hamid Ismail

From left to right: Former MMPRC head Ziyath, former VP Adheeb and prominent businessman Hamid Ismail

Criminal Court on Thursday sentenced former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor to eight years in prison after he was convicted of mass embezzlement.

In addition to Adheeb who is already serving 25 years on two separate counts of terrorism, former managing director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) Abdulla Ziyath and prominent businessman Hamid Ismail were charged with misappropriating acquisition fees paid by a foreign company for the 50-year lease of a lagoon in Malé atoll.

Both Ziyath and Hamid were also convicted in the case. Ziyath also received an eight year prison sentence while Hamid, the brother in law of Adheeb received two years.

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 rest were given out without any agreement with the ministry, the reports showed.

More than USD79 million received by MMPRC was distributed through a private company with links to the then VP.

Adheeb and Ziyath were arrested last October in connection to the September 28 blast on the president’s speedboat, which the government says was an attempt to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Hamid was arrested on October 28 from a condominium in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. The arrest was made in a joint operation by the Maldives police and the counter terrorism division of the Malaysian police.

He was released from custody, but was later arrested again in a money laundering case involving MMPRC.

Police had said MMPRC had illegally transferred funds received as acquisition cost by leasing the island for resort development to a company directly linked to Hamid. The funds were then transferred to the accounts of several suspects in the blast, authorities had said.

The former VP was convicted of orchestrating the blast and sentenced to 15 years in prison which added to the 10 year prison sentence he received for a weapons possession conviction a day earlier.

Authorities have also alleged that some of the money had been used to fund the blast aboard the presidential speedboat in September last year.

President Yameen and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim were travelling to Male from the airport on September 28 when the explosion took place. They had returned home that morning after concluding their visit to Saudi Arabia to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage.

The president was unhurt, but the first lady suffered a spinal fracture.

 

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