The Criminal court has dismissed three remaining counts of fraud against Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim, stating that his “acts were not enough to criminalise him”.
All four cases against Nazim concerned public procurement tenders of the former Atolls Ministry secured through fraudulent documents and paper companies.
Judge Saeed Ibrahim on Wednesday ruled that two counts of fraud against Nazim – for setting up several paper companies to win a bid worth US$110,000, provide 15,000 national flags for the atolls ministry in 2003, and a similar tender worth US$92,412 to provide 15,000 national flags in 2005, could not be prosecuted.
The third count – conspiracy to defraud the ministry in 2003 in a similar manner to win a public tender for procuring US$115,758 worth of mosque sound systems – was also dismissed.
Wednesday’s rulings came following a similar decision by the court on Tuesday that Nazim cannot be prosecuted for the charges of defrauding the now-defunct Ministry of Atolls Development, in the purchase of 220 harbour lights worth Rf1.95 million (US$126,000) in 2004.
With the court’s decision to not prosecute Nazim over any of the counts, he has now been cleared of all the charges filed against him following the police investigation into the tender and procurement fraud first flagged in a ministry audit report released in early 2009.
During the three year trial, prosecutors maintained that Nazim laundered cash through Namira Engineering while he was the company’s Managing Director, by setting up several unregistered or paper companies and using Namira’s equipments and staff to bid for public tenders on those companies name.
According to the audit report, the auditors have found evidence linking those companies to Nazim with phone and fax numbers stated on the bidding documents registered under his address while the company shareholders were same people working at Namira or relatives of Nazim.
Then-employees of Namira testified under oath that they were instructed by Nazim to bid for the projects – however, the residing judge concluded from their testimonies that they were responsible for the procurement fraud and therefore dismissed the testimonies against Nazim on all counts, adding that they were all alike.
The judge also concluded that Nazim’s “acts were not enough to criminalise” him legally.
If Nazim had been found guilty, he would have been ordered to pay a total sum of US$345,170 paid by the state for the projects and sentenced to between one to six years imprisonment.
Under provision 131 of the penal code, an extra month will be added to the jail sentence for every additional Rf1,000 if the fraudulent transaction exceeds Rf100,000.
According to article 73 of the constitution, an MP convicted for over one year in jail will lose his seat.
Meanwhile, rulings are still pending on fraud charges filed against Atolls Minister Abdullah Hameed [half brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom] and Eydhafushi MP Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem, former director of finance at the ministry who were implicated in the case.
At a press conference in August 2009, Chief Inspector Ismail Atheef said police had uncovered evidence that implicated Nazim in fraudulent transactions worth over US$260,000 (Mrf 3,446,950).
Police exhibited numerous quotations, agreements, tender documents, receipts, bank statements and forged cheques proving that Nazim received over US$400,000 in the case.
A hard disk seized during a raid of Nazim’s office in May allegedly contained copies of forged documents and bogus letter heads.
Police further alleged that MP Saleem actively assisted from the atoll ministry while Nazim’s wife Zeenath Abdullah had abused her position as a manager of the Bank of Maldives’ Villingili branch to deposit proceeds of the fraudulent conspiracy.
Police said Hameed, played a key role in the fraud by handing out bids without public announcements, making advance payments using cheques against the state asset and finance regulations, approving bid documents for unregistered companies and discriminatory treatment of bid applicants.
Despite the allegations, Nazim had steadily pleaded not guilty.
Minivan News could not reach Nazim at time of press.
However, in an interview to the local media outlet Sun following the rulings, Nazim claimed the four cases were baseless and had been leveled at him by former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration, using false evidence.
He welcomed the ruling as a testimony to the existence of an independent judiciary: “”Today we are guaranteed of the existence of an independent and trustworthy judiciary. Former President Nasheed an the MDP will now believe we have an independent judiciary, because they know that the four cases were schemed with manufactured evidence. These are are absolutely untrue and baseless cases.”