President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s dismissed representative on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Mohamed ‘Reynis’ Saleem, commissioned Azleef Rauf, a suspect in the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, to retrieve money owed to him, a police investigation has found.
Police revealed the case was forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) on June 26, with charges of extortion, theft and damaging private property raised against Saleem, Rauf and three others.
The other suspects were identified as Mohamed Hamid, 26, of Irak in Seenu Meedhoo; Abdulla Saeed, 29, of Autumn Vaadhy in Haa Alif Dhidhoo; and Abdulla Hunaish, 42, of Galolhu Moonlight View in Male’.
The five men are accused of “intimidating and threatening two people over the course of several days saying they owed money, robbing them of their belongings, forcibly taking them places and damaging their property”.
Moreover, the group stole a motorcycle belonging to the victims “to [keep] until they paid”, assaulted the pair, and threatened them at their workplace after forcing their way in and damaging items in their office, according to police.
‘Reynis’ Saleem was sacked from his post at the JSC by President Waheed on June 18 following unsuccessful attempts by police to take the criminal defence lawyer into custody.
The Criminal Court reportedly refused to grant police an arrest warrant earlier this month, a decision backed upon appeal by the High Court.
Saleem was the defence counsel of Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim in criminal cases involving an alleged scam to defraud the now-defunct Ministry of Atolls Development.
The cases were dismissed by the Criminal Court shortly after the controversial transfer of presidential power on February 7, 2012.
Saleem was sacked by President Waheed a day after the Civil Court issued a court order freezing the bank accounts and holding the passport of Dr Waheed’s running mate and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali.
The court order was issued in a case filed by Deputy Speaker Nazim seeking enforcement of a Civil Court verdict in April 2011 – upheld by the High Court in April 2013 – ordering the recently appointed running mate to settle an unpaid debt of MVR 1.92 million (US$124,513).
The move followed increasingly fractious relations between Nazim’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the coalition of four parties backing Dr Waheed’s bid for the presidency.
Meanwhile, after he was summoned for questioning by police in May, Saleem denied the allegations of commissioning gangs for extortion.
“The first thing I want to make clear is that I don’t have any links with gangs, or links with any person connected with gangs,” Saleem told local media.
“The question the police asked was whether I had sent a group to collect some money owed to me by someone. I said that I never sent any group to collect any money for me. So if someone owed me money, I would go to court. I shouldn’t have to involve a group,” explained Saleem.
Saleem also denied allegations he had links to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officer Azleef Rauf, who was accused of planning the murder of MP Dr Afrasheem Ali by chief suspect Hussein Humam, and was subsequently arrested on May 23.
“A serious question is being raised, about a person named Azleef. When I read the papers today, there were reports about a person named Azleef. Right now is a very critical moment, and they have associated my name with his name. I don’t want any newspaper writing in this manner,” said Saleem.
Saleem claimed that his police summons was politically motivated and related to his current JSC responsibilities, but that he would “disclose details [about the allegation] when the right time comes”.
After initially denying that he murdered the moderate religious scholar and PPM MP, Humam confessed to the crime at a court hearing in May.
According to a previous statement given by Human at a pre-trial detention hearing on December 7, 2012, which was read out by the state prosecutor at court, Human was enlisted by Azleef Rauf to commit the murder.
Human however retracted his confession at the next trial date on June 2, claiming his previous statement was obtained by police through coercion.
Rauf was meanwhile dismissed from the army earlier this month following his arrest in May.