Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla attempted to influence the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC)’s investigation into alleged corruption in the previous government’s aborted airport privatisation deal, a commission member alleged to local media outlet CNM.
The ACC member, on condition of anonymity, reportedly alleged that the commission during its investigation came under heavy criticism from Sheikh Imran over its refusal to tailor the report to his liking.
The ACC’s findings, which were published last week, concluded that there was no corruption in the airport privatisation deal, days prior to GMR claiming US$1.4 billion in compensation for “wrongful termination” of its 25 year concession agreement.
“He met with me on two occasions. The first meeting happened just a day before they were to have a big night of protests. He requested that the ACC help the national movement’s efforts to drive GMR away and to speed up our investigation and conclude it in such a fashion that would assist their efforts,” CNM quoted the commission member as saying.
The second meeting took place a day before the national movement’s protests concluded, he claimed.
According to the unnamed commission member, Imran requested a five-minute meeting.
“On the second night he told me that he hoped the ACC would include at least one phrase that would be helpful to the national movement,” he said.
ACC President Hassan Luthfee had his phone switched off when contacted regarding the allegations today.
Sheikh Imran and national movement steering committee member and spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
Last Monday, the ACC ruled out corruption in the awarding of a concession agreement in June 2010 to a consortium of Indian infrastructure giant GMR and Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhard (MAHB) to develop and manage INIA.
In a 61-page investigative report (Dhivehi), the ACC concluded that the bidding process was conducted fairly by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and that the GMR-MAHB consortium won the contract by proposing the highest net present value of the concession fee.
The ACC further concluded that the awarding of the contract did not contravene amendments brought to the Public Finance Act requiring parliamentary approval for such agreements.
The amendments were published in the government gazette after the concession agreement was signed, the ACC noted.
In December 2012, shortly after the protests led by Sheikh Imran Abdulla under the self-titled ‘national movement’ against GMR concluded, the government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan abruptly terminated the agreement and gave GMR a seven day ultimatum to leave the country.
“The government has given a seven day notice to GMR to leave the airport. The agreement states that GMR should be given a 30 day notice but the government believes that since the contract is void, it need not be followed,” then-Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor said in a press conference announcing the decision.
Shukoor claimed that the government reached the decision after considering “technical, financial and economic” issues surrounding the agreement.
Responding to the ACC report in local media, Sheikh Imran Abdulla described the findings as a “slap in the peoples’ face.”
He claimed that the public now resented the ACC due to its findings and that the commission had lost credibility as a result of the report.
Imran contended that the report would facilitate the return of GMR should the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) win the September presidential election.
Responding to the ACC’s findings, the government of President Waheed insisted that the report would have no impact on its legal position to declare the GMR concession agreement void, contending that President Waheed’s decision had nothing to do with corruption allegations levelled by “some people”.
President’s Office Media Secretary Masood Imad told Minivan News following the release of the report that the contract was declared void from the beginning due to the negative impact on state finances in 2012.
“Back before the government took back control of the airport from GMR, the reason we gave was that the deal was bleeding the country’s economy. We were paying GMR to keep them here,” he told Minivan News at the time.
Masood said that despite “speculation from some people” concerning corruption by the former administration in signing the deal, the present government was not responsible for filing a case with the ACC.
He added that the government’s concerns over the deal had been in relation to the imposition of a US$25 Airport Development Charge (ADC) by GMR that was blocked by the Civil Court in 2011 after the then-opposition DQP filed a case on the matter.
The DQP, now part of President Waheed’s coalition government, attempted to block payment of the charge on the grounds that it was effectively a tax not approved by parliament.
In response, then MDP government agreed to deduct the ADC from the concession fees payable, while GMR later offered to exempt Maldives nationals from paying the ADC as it moved to appeal the verdict.
However, former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned under controversial circumstances on February 7, 2012 amidst a violent mutiny by elements of the police and military before the Civil Court verdict was appealed at the High Court.
Consequently, in the first quarter of 2012, Dr Waheed’s government received US$525,355 of an expected US$8.7 million, after the deduction of the ADC. That was followed by a US$1.5 million bill for the second quarter, after the ADC payable eclipsed the revenue due the government.