Over a year after Maldives was rocked by the biggest corruption scandal in history, president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom for the first time, apologized to the people on Tuesday.
An official audit report had revealed that over USD79 million had been embezzled through the state tourism promotion company which has been heavily linked to president Yameen himself.
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 Yameen’s former deputy Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor.
Speaking during the ceremony to inaugurate a new water and sanitation project in Fuvahmulah city, president Yameen offered an apology to the people and assured that he has now put the necessary mechanisms in place to deny such blatant corruption in the future.
“Tonight I want to apologize because the MMPRC scandal transpired in this regime. So I want to apologize to the people,” he said.
The country’s graft watchdog had questioned president Yameen over the transfer of funds linked to MPPRC to a to his personal account in the Islamic Bank.
The figure was reportedly USD1 million which the president denied any knowledge of.
Opposition parties have repeatedly accused the president of turning a blind eye to the mass embezzlement and the president’s insistence that he had no knowledge of his deputy’s transgressions had also attracted intense criticism.
However, on Tuesday, president Yameen in his defense said the scandal was not down to his failure to govern the country.
“No matter how closely we watch, criminals will commit crimes. The only way to stop them is to hand them severe punishment,” Yameen added.
A recent documentary released by Al Jazeera had uncovered evidence linking president Yameen to mass corruption, thuggery and international money laundering.
Created by the Emmy and BAFTA winning Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, the documentary titled ‘Stealing Paradise’ contains leaked documents, text messages and recorded confessions that had shed new light into the level of corruption 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 Adheeb.
According to text messages and confessions, president Yameen, through his former deputy had siphoned off millions in state funds, hijacked state institutions and bribed state officials including judges, lawyers and parliamentarians to exert his authoritarian power over the whole country.
Former aides of the now jailed ex-VP Adheeb had gone on record to say that they had personally delivered “bags of cash” to the president himself.
Mohamed ‘Moho’ Latheef who ran the front company through which nearly USD80 million was siphoned off told Al Jazeera that president Yameen was aware of the whole scheme.
“President Yameen will know me personally. I was there and I was managing some of their funds,” Latheef who is among the eight suspects wanted in connection to the blast aboard the presidential speedboat last year.