High Court upholds dismissal of corruption charges against deputy speaker of parliament

The High Court last Thursday upheld the Criminal Court’s dismissal of corruption charges against Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim.

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives MP was charged with four counts of corruption in late 2009 for allegedly conspiring to defraud the former Ministry of Atolls Development.

Shortly after the controversial transfer of presidential power in February 2012, the Criminal Court ruled that there was insufficient evidence implicating the MP in the alleged scam.

The Prosecutor General’s office appealed the decisions later that year at the High Court on the grounds that the Criminal Court refused to accept state witnesses.

The court of appeal ruled last week that the prosecution was unable to prove that Nazim’s employees signed bogus bid proposals on his instructions.

Moreover, the High Court referred to a Supreme Court precedent which established that accomplices to a crime could not testify for or against an alleged partner to the crime.

The scam – first flagged in an audit report released in early 2009 – involved paper companies allegedly set up by Nazim to win bids for projects worth several hundred thousands dollars, including the fraudulent purchase of harbour lights, national flags, and mosque sound systems.

At a press conference in August 2009, police exhibited numerous quotations, agreements, tender documents, receipts, bank statements, and forged cheques showing that Nazim received over US$400,000 in the scam.

A hard disk seized during a raid of Nazim’s office in May 2009 allegedly contained copies of forged documents and bogus letterheads.

Police alleged that money was channelled through the scam to Nazim who laundered cash through Namira Engineering – of which Nazim was the managing director – and unregistered companies.

Paper companies were allegedly formed using Namira’s equipment and staff to bid for public tenders announced by the now-defunct ministry.

According to the audit report,  evidence was uncovered linking those companies to Nazim with phone and fax numbers stated on the bidding documents registered under his address while the company shareholders were either working at Namira or relatives of Nazim.

Then-employees of Namira testified under oath that they were instructed by Nazim to bid for the projects – however, the Criminal Court judge concluded from their testimonies that they were responsible for the procurement fraud and dismissed their testimonies.