Maldives - Corruption
In September 2016 Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit exposed massive corruption at the top of the Maldives government, including theft, bribery and money laundering. President Abdulla Yameen was accused of receiving cash in bags filled with up to $1m - so much that it was "difficult to carry", according to one of the men who delivered the money. The president's ministers and aides had plotted to launder up to $1.5bn through the South Asian nation's central bank, with the help of secretive businessmen from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. They planned to fly in cash at up to $100m at a time, pass it through the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) and transfer it back out.
The testimony also suggests the length of former President Mohamed Nasheed's 13-year terrorism sentence was determined directly by the president. One of the men who delivered bribes tells how he was summoned to court to collect Nasheed's sentence sheet, which was then shown to the president, who ordered an amendment. Senior judges received money and luxury flats and met regularly with the president and his deputy, who meddled in high-profile cases and judicial appointments.
Yameen denies allegations of corruption and rights abuses.
Although the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. An independent Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had responsibility for investigating corruption charges involving senior government officials. According to the ACC, a limited definition of corruption in the law and the lack of a provision to investigate and prosecute illicit enrichment limited the commission’s work.
Neither the constitution nor the law requires disclosure of income and assets by appointed or elected officials.
The independent Anticorruption Commission (ACC) has responsibility for investigating corruption charges involving senior government officials. According to the commission, a limited definition of corruption in the law and the lack of a provision to investigate and prosecute illicit enrichment limited the commission’s work. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, which conducted a November 2015 fact-finding mission, concluded independent institutions like the ACC were unable to fulfil their mandate due to “incessant interference from the judiciary and the government.” As of July, the ACC received 395 registered cases.
NGOs noted there was an increase in corruption practices at all levels of society, and the ACC reported in 2016 it received one registered case of a company belonging to ruling-party members or parliamentarians winning a disproportionate number of bids. Judges were commonly believed to take bribes, and the ACC reported it was looking into one such case. The president and ruling-party members of parliament were widely accused of illicit enrichment. Vote buying in parliament reportedly affected key constitutional amendments and other legislation.
TM reported widespread corruption across the judiciary, legislature, and the executive branches and, in a 09 September 2016 statement, called on “all state institutions to address allegations of widespread corruption and conduct an independent investigation free from political influence.” TM also expressed concern in a June 30 statement about “the increasing intimidation and challenges faced by watchdog bodies, activists, and media outlets reporting on corruption.”
NGOs noted that during the year 2014 there were no reports of companies belonging to ruling party members or parliamentarians winning a disproportionate number of bids, although this may have been due to the absence of large infrastructure projects due to the fiscal situation and political crisis. Judges were commonly believed to take bribes. Parliamentary members were accused of illicit enrichment, with opposition members changing parties and subsequently acquiring lucrative business contracts, new cars, and houses. Vote buying in parliament reportedly hindered substantive debate on key legal and public welfare legislation.
The local NGO Transparency Maldives reported corruption across the judiciary, parliament, and members of the executive. Four cases of corruption were filed against the deputy speaker of parliament, MP Ahmed Nazim, for public procurement tenders in late 2009. All charges against him were cleared by the Criminal Court on 20 February 2012.
During 2012 a number of other high-profile cases of alleged corruption were noted. These included a case against the Indian GMR consortium, which won the bid to develop and operate the country’s international airport. The government canceled the contract in November, and the GMR Group filed a lawsuit against the government for compensation. The ACC was investigating charges of corruption in the tender process at year’s end.
Other notable cases were the Border Control System Project, where a Malaysian company, NexBiz, allegedly won the tender through bid evaluation irregularities. Parliament passed a resolution calling for the project to be canceled. The government also announced its decision to cancel the contract, which the company challenged in the courts. The corruption investigation by the ACC continued at year’s end.
The law provides for access to government information and requires the government office to provide the requested information within 30 days. This law was not implemented in practice.
Al Jazeera released a documentary on 07 September 2016 focused on corruption in President Yameen’s administration. The documentary alleged widespread corruption in the leasing of local islands, judicial bribery, state-sponsored violence against media, and hinted at the existence of an international network to launder money through the Maldives Monetary Authority. The documentary asserted President Yameen personally received millions of dollars from illegal island leasing. TM and several political opposition members called for an independent investigation into the allegations.
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