Maldives tourism firm files lawsuit to recover stolen funds

MMPRC

A soldier is seen posted outside the MMPRC office. 

Maldives’ main tourism promotion company has filed a lawsuit against the private company used to siphon off millions in state funds, now dubbed as the largest corruption scandal in the archipelago’s history.

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 called SOF Private Limited with close links to the now jailed former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor.

According to the lawsuit, MMPRC is seeking the immediate recovery of USD14 million released to SOF under an agreement between the two companies.

The country’s graft watchdog had also questioned former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor over the transfer of funds linked to MPPRC to a private account of incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Adheeb was convicted and sentenced to eight years for misappropriating acquisition fees paid by a foreign company for the 50-year lease of a lagoon in the capital atoll.

President Yameen had been questioned by the ACC over a transaction that a company involved in the MMPRC scandal had made to his personal account in the Islamic Bank.

Al Jazeera meanwhile, had exposed strong evidence linking president Yameen to the funds stolen through his then deputy.

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 has blown the lid off corruption, thuggery and international money laundering in the island nation.

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.

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