Ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nazim today appeared without a lawyer at a Supreme Court appeal into corruption charges, claiming his former lawyers were too afraid to provide him with legal representation.
“There will come a day when every man receives justice with Allah. I do not see a day where justice will be served in this country,” Nazim said.
Nazim is accused of conspiring to defraud the former Ministry of Atolls Development. He was acquitted by the High Court in February 2013.
At today’s hearing, Nazim told the Supreme Court his former lawyers Adam Asif and Ahmed “Reynis” Saleem had said the current political environment was “too dangerous” to represent him.
“The lawyer who represented me last, Adam Asif, said representing people like myself would be a danger, a threat to his life,” Nazim said.
Nazim’s claim comes in the aftermath of the arrest of former Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim on suspicion of treason and terrorism, economic sanctions on Jumhooree Party Leader Gasim Ibrahim, moves to restart a trial against former President Mohamed Nasheed, and the sacking of Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim.
The former deputy Speaker and close associate of President Abdulla Yameen also appears to have fallen out of favor with the government, with the police withholding his passport on charges of blackmail in October.
Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb at the time blamed Nazim for a damning report implicating the minister in a US$6million corruption scandal. Adeeb accused Nazim of attempting to defame him due to his refusal to support Nazim’s bid for the Majlis Speakership.
According to Nazim, Saleem had also declined to represent him due to the state’s alleged failure to provide paperwork confirming it had withdrawn terrorism charges against the lawyer over a case of extortion in June 2013.
Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed today gave Nazim five days to appoint a lawyer and to respond to charges despite Nazim’s request for a longer period.
Nazim took issue with the Supreme Court’s decision to accept the Prosecutor General’s appeal, pointing out the charges had been appealed in July 2014 after the 90 day appeal period had passed.
The Judicature Act does allow courts to accept appeals submitted after the appeal period in extraordinary circumstances.
Nazim’s High Court acquittal came three months after former Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz resigned. New PG Muhthaz Muhsin was appointed to the post in July 2014.
The US$400,000 atolls ministry scam – first flagged in a 2009 audit report – involved paper companies allegedly set up by Nazim to win bids for projects worth several hundred thousands dollars, including the fraudulent purchase of harbour lights, national flags, and mosque sound systems.
Shortly after the controversial transfer of presidential power in February 2012, the Criminal Court ruled there was insufficient evidence implicating the MP in the scam.
The Prosecutor General’s Office appealed the decision later that year at the High Court on the grounds that the Criminal Court had refused to accept the state’s witnesses which included Nazim’s former employees.
However, the High Court in February 2013 refused to accept witnesses testimony referring to a Supreme Court precedent which established that accomplices to a crime could not testify for or against an alleged partner to the crime.
The court of appeal also ruled that the prosecution was unable to prove that Nazim’s employees signed bogus bid proposals on his instructions.
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