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The Anti- Corruption Commission (ACC) is to launch an investigation into a Civil Court judge’s claim that she was offered a US$5 million bribe.
Speaking on Maldives Broadcasting Corporation’s (MBC) Friday afternoon show ‘Heyyambo’ Judge Aisha Shujoon Mohamed said there was some truth to the belief judges accepted bribes in the Maldives, revealing that she had been offered a US$5 million bribe herself.
“I became angry and shouted at them. Then they left,” she said.
Speaking to Minivan News, ACC President Hassan Luthfy said the ACC had decided to launch an investigation as Article 4 of the Anti Corruption Act requires the penalisation of anyone offering bribes to judges. Any individual convicted faces a 10-year jail term.
Luthfy said that judges must inform the ACC of bribe attempts immediately and that keeping such a case hidden is in itself a crime.
“Concealing bribe attempts is an offense, even by the code of conduct for judges. It is an offense not to inform this commission,” Luthfy said.
According to a study conducted by governance NGO Transparency Maldives in December, the judiciary is perceived to be among the most corrupt institutions in the country.
Approximately 55 percent of those surveyed believed the judiciary to be most corrupt, while 60 percent and 57 percent believed the parliament and political parties to be most corrupt, respectively.
Speaking on ‘Heyyambo’, Shujoon said she could not say whether judges had or had not accepted bribes, but that it may happen given the salaries allocated to judges.
“It [bribes] can be very appealing if its sets you up for life, given our pay and the amount of work we have to do. So I cannot say there is no truth to that. That is because something like that happened to me,” she said.
There will always be individuals who are unhappy with verdicts, but judges can only decide on what is presented in the courtroom, Shujoon said.
“Verdicts are delivered on what is presented. Sometimes I wonder if I have truly delivered justice. But that is the way it is in front of the law and in front of me,” she said.
Shujoon is among the first female judges in the country. She said she had accepted her appointment in 2007 to prove women too can serve in the judiciary.
Shujoon further revealed that she considers her purpose fulfilled and is now deliberating on retiring from the judiciary.
The UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, in March 2013 expressed concern over the gap in equal representation of women in the judiciary, stating that the country’s eight female judges had “reached their positions through sheer determination and dedication since there is no policy or strategy to increase women’s representation on the bench.”