The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) is examining photographs of all pilgrims who went on hajj last year, following allegations of bribery levied against two sitting judges.
The allegations were made by former President of the Adhaalath Party, Sheikh Hussain Rasheed.
Sheikh Rasheed said during a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally in January that he had met a Maldivian businessman while in Saudi Arabia, who told him he had paid two Maldivian judges a sum of MVR 12.3 million (US$ 797,148.41).
According to the report, the ACC began analysing the photographs to identity the businessman to which the former Adhaalath Party leader had referred.
Speaking to Minivan News, President of the ACC Hassan Luthfee confirmed the ACC was investigating the matter. He said Rasheed was summoned for questioning following the allegations.
“The investigations are currently going on. While investigating we will be looking into all the relevant documents and other details,” he said.
Luthfee declined to comment on whether the commission was analysing the photographs of the pilgrims, but said the commission would “utilise all the information it can get on the case.”
He declined to give any further details.
Rasheed alleged the businessman had paid one judge a sum of US$70,000 (MVR 1.079 million) while the other was paid US$50,000 (MVR 771,000) on two different occasions, a sum of US$170,000.
Speaking to Minivan News on Thursday, Rasheed confirmed that he was summoned to the commission and added that he had “given all the details and names of the people involved in the deal”.
“These are stories that are being constantly discussed in society. The businessman told me about the case, and it is a duty to let the public know of such critical matters, especially when it concerns people who we go to seek justice,” he said.
Rasheed further claimed that certain controversial decisions reached in the courts the acquittal of criminals suggested “something is really going wrong”.
“The courts have ruled that printing counterfeit dollars is not a crime. How is that not a crime? It is a crime even under international law,” he said.
Rasheed noted that the courts failed to find any wrongdoing on behalf of a man who put Japanese aid money in his personal bank account, referring to an embezzlement case involving former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s half brother, Abdulla Algeen Abdul Gayoom.
Algeen – also the younger brother MP Abdulla Yameen, ex-President Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) presidential hopeful – was accused of embezzling US$177,460 of Japanese funding from the Department of Meteorology (DOM), when he was the director.
Algeen allegedly sent three separate invoices to the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) between May 2006 and April 2007 on behalf of DOM. All three invoices demanded payment to Algeen’s personal Bank of Maldives account.
However, in acquitting the case, Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Didi ruled that the state could not prove that the money in question was owed by JAMSTEC to the government.
Following the former Adhaalath Party leader’s allegations, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) also discussed probing into the allegations.
A JSC spokesperson told Minivan News at the time that after the allegations were made public, members of the commission had discussed an investigation.
“The matter was discussed during a JSC meeting,” the spokesperson said previously. Asked whether a decision was reached, he replied “there were many items on the agenda.”
Minivan News on Thursday confirmed that the JSC was not investigation any of the allegations.
Former JSC member and whistleblower, Aishath Velezinee, in her book The Failed Silent Coup: in Defeat They Reached for the Gun extensively highlighted the watchdog body’s undermining of judicial independence, and complicity in sabotaging the separation of powers.
In her book, she recounted her experience as she attempted to stop the commission from re-appointing unqualified and ethically-suspect judges loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, after it dismissed the professional and ethical standards demanded by Article 285 of the constitution as “symbolic”.
That moment at the conclusion of the constitutional interim period marked the collapse of the new constitution and resulted in the appointment of a illegitimate judiciary, Velezinee contended, and set in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to President Mohamed Nasheed’s arrest of Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed two years later.
In 2004, a report by judicial expert Professor Paul Robinson assessed the country’s criminal justice system, and found in his report that “serious efforts” were required to increase the quality of judges.
“Serious efforts must be made to provide substantial training to current judges in order to ensure that all have the background they need in both law and Shari’a. Perhaps more importantly, no judge should be hired who does not already have the needed training,” he wrote.