The High Court today ruled that Adam Naseer’s bank accounts would remain frozen until the appeal process launched by the Prosecutor General’s Office is complete.
Naseer was arrested on charges of drug trafficking in July 2009, and was acquitted by Judge Abdul Baary Yousuf on 28 February, who noted there was a lack of evidence against Naseer.
The government has previously identified Naseer as one the country’s top six drug dealers, and his acquittal has raised concern among many about the integrity of the judicial system.
The High Court’s decision to freeze Naseer’s accounts follows a decision yesterday by the Criminal Court ruling that police were to return the Rf6 million (US$467,000) in cash found in Naseer’s house when he was arrested.
Police Sub Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed that the police had requested the High Court suspend the order to return the money to Naseer, and to freeze his bank accounts, until the appeal process from the PG’s office was complete.
Shiyam called the court’s speedy ruling “a success” and said the police “hope future cases will be treated in the same manner.”
President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said “I don’t think [Naseer] is under arrest” but noted that he was unable to leave the country.
“Immigration has a black list of all individuals with pending judicial matters,” he said.
Shiyam confirmed Naseer was “at home” but not under house arrest.
High Court decision
Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameem confirmed the PG’s office submitted an appeal to the High Court yesterday for Naseer’s bank accounts to remain frozen while the appeal to his drug charges is in process.
Shameem explained that it was very important for Naseer’s money to remain frozen through the appeal process because “if he gets a hold of it, he could send it abroad or launder it.”
Under the Narcotics Law, any money obtained through illegal activities “shall be confiscated by the state.”
“We have asked the court to confiscate the money in case he is later convicted,” Shameem added.
Shameem said he thought the High Court’s ruling to freeze Naseer’s assets was “a good decision” but the noted that the case would not yet be heard in the High Court.
“They will send a summon in time. We still have to wait,” he said.
Shameem noted that the case cannot be heard at the High Court until the Criminal Court sends a formal report on the original ruling, which includes the documents that were submitted and the witness statement.
“We are still waiting on the full report from the Criminal Court, hopefully [we will get it] by the end of this week” he said. “We still need to get things started.”
Shiyam suggested “there are more charges to come” in the Naseer case, although he would not comment on whether there will be new evidence submitted in the High Court’s hearing.
There has been much public outcry about the performance of the judicial system, sparked by Adam Naseer’s acquittal.
Even President Mohamed Nasheed said at a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally on Sunday 28 February, “When there’s Rf5 million in a bag underneath the bed and the judge doesn’t think it raises any kind of doubt, I wonder how they perform their duties as a judge.”
A source familiar with the judicial reform process said the judge’s conduct needed to be “looked into”.
The source noted that 75 per cent of the country’s judges had not finished primary-level education, and had simply acquired a ‘judge’s certificate’ or been appointed by the previous regime. Historically, “a few people” instructed the judges on the law “and verdicts”.
Secretary General at the Judiciary Service Commission (JSC), Muna Mohamed, meanwhile confirmed that only 35 out of 202 judges have a degree in law, and only one has a diploma in Shari’a law. The remaining 166 have local trainee certificates.