The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has asked Attorney-General Azima Shakoor to “come clean” over a US$10 million invoice from accountancy group Grant Thorton, contending that the charge was a result of the present government prematurely terminating its investigation.
In a statement released today, the MDP contested claims made by Attorney General Shakoor to local news outlets that her office received two invoices totalling US$358,000 and £4.6 million from Grant Thorton. Shakoor claimed that the charges were for legal advice provided to the MDP government, for which it had not even received a report.
She made the comments at a press conference held on Sunday after documents were leaked revealing that President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government spent £75,000 (MVR 1.81 million) on advice from former UK Attorney General, Baroness Patricia Scotland, prompting opposition criticism against the spending.
She said similar legal advice had been sought previously and specifically pointed out the Grant Thorton agreement.
The ousted former President Mohamed Nasheed tasked the UK-based accountancy group to uncover large amounts of state funds allegedly embezzled during Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30 year-old rule, several of which were flagged in the state’s audit reports.
Attacking the attorney general’s claims, the MDP claimed that the terms of engagement contracted with the UK forensic investigators was “not on a contingent fee basis” and instead, government had agreed to pay the fee as a percentage of the proceeds of the stolen assets that were recovered.
“This type of fee was used because a fee-paying engagement would have been too expensive,” the MDP contended. “However, given that the firm was not charging any fees, the engagement letter that was signed between the GOM and GT included a penalty clause in the event the investigation was unreasonably stopped by the government.”
Under these circumstances, the party said, the penalty would include retroactive charges for the work done by the GT but also a fine for not proceeding towards a full recovery.
“Thus the invoice for the penalty fees was submitted to the government last month when the government decided to close the investigation rather than continue with the criminal and civil complaints that had been lodged in Singapore Courts,” the statement reads.
The MDP also contended the US$10 million penalty was a “small price” to pay in order to suspend the civil and criminal proceedings reportedly underway in Singapore over a suspected illegal oil trade worth US$800 million, which was allegedly undertaken by Abdulla Yameen – Gayoom’s half-brother – while he was the head of state-owned State Trading Organisation (STO). The scheme was alleged to involve the purchase of subsidised oil through the STO in Singapore, which was sold on through an entity called ‘Mocom Trading’ to the Burmese military junta, at a black market premium.
Yameen however has denied these allegations.
Nasheed’s Presidential Commission on corruption, which had been charged with investigating the STO case was disbanded – one of incoming President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s first acts in power.
Meanwhile, MDPs spokesperson for international affairs has also pointed out that Grant Thorton’s investigators have not submitted a full report because they might decide to litigate in UK courts to recover the US$10 million in penalty fees.
“I believe that GT has not submitted a full report on what it uncovered in stolen assets by the members of the dictatorship because they might want to litigate in UK courts to recover the penalty fees. Clearly, the work undertaken by GT revealed the illegal monies embezzled through the Mocom scam and the existence of secret offshore companies owned by members of the former dictatorship,” Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said in the statement.
“A criminal complaint was ready for filing in Singapore courts in February when the coup d’etat intervened,” he added, alleging that: “the old boys are back in power and the money swindling operations are ready to take off again.”
Following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012 that saw the ousting of President Nasheed’s government, the case fell silent – despite the matter having been forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s office a week earlier, according to MDP.
However, the Prosecutor General Office confirmed the office had not received the illegal oil trade case for prosecution from the former government and therefore no one had been charged.
Attorney General Shakoor was not responding to calls at time of press.