NYT report claims government and StAR seeking $400m in stolen assets

A report in major US newspaper The New York Times has claimed that the Maldives government is seeking to seize US$400 million allegedly stolen by the former government, assisted in its recovery efforts by the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR).

StAR is a joint initiative of the World Bank and the United Nations, which claims to have recovered US$5 billion over the past 16 years. It estimates conservatively that between US$20-40 billion is stolen annually from developing countries “through bribery, misappropriation and corruption – about 15 percent to 30 percent of aid to the developing world.”

In the Maldives, a  number of politically-connected figures, including former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, had now become the targets of  “increasingly coordinated efforts to repatriate misappropriated funds,” the NYT report said.

“Results to date have been encouraging, but much more can be done,” the NYT said, citing “officials and development experts.”

Representatives of the former government have steadfastly denied the existence of stolen funds. Gayoom’s assistant and former chief government spokesperson Mohamed Hussain Shareef (Mundhu) told Minivan News in December that  “there is no evidence to link Gayoom to corruption”, and urged accusers “to show us the evidence.”

“If you have the details make them public, instead of repeating allegations,” he said. “[The former president] has said, ‘go ahead and take a look, and if you find anything make it public.’”

Friday’s report in the NYT described the Auditor General’s report, published in 2009, as “a guidebook on self-enrichment.”

“An estimated US$9.5 million was spent buying and delivering a luxury yacht from Germany for the president; $17 million was spent on renovations of the presidential palace and family houses. Mr Gayoom built a saltwater swimming pool, a badminton court and a gymnasium, and he bought 11 speed boats and at least 55 cars — including the country’s only Mercedes-Benz,” the NYT noted.

“And the list goes on, from Loro Piana suits and trousers to watches and hefty bills for medical services in Singapore for ‘important people and their families. There was a US$70,000 trip to Dubai by the first lady in 2007, a US$20,000 bill for a member of the family of the former president to stay a week at the Grand Hyatt in Singapore. On one occasion, diapers were sent to the islands by airfreight from Britain for Mr Gayoom’s grandson.”

The Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem was dismissed in late March by an opposition-controlled parliament (Majlis) following a no-confidence motion and allegations of corruption.

Naeem, who was himself appointed by the former president and a then-ruling party majority Majlis, claimed at the time that the charges were an attempt to discredit his office and prevent him from reclaiming the government’s money stored in overseas bank accounts.

“A lot of the government’s money was taken through corrupt [means] and saved in the banks of England, Switzerland, Singapore and Malaysia,” Naeem said in March, during his first press conference in eight months.

The Maldives government has meanwhile “begun the paper chase”, Friday’s NYT report claimed, “but it lacks the resources to unravel a complex trail that it assumes runs through the British Channel Islands, Singapore and Malaysia.”

“Much of the looted money ends up in complex corporate structures and bank accounts held by associates offshore, making it hard to identify the beneficial owners. This raises the issue of tightening regulation of service providers and of the legal firms that create front companies that invest in assets like real estate and art,” the report noted.

However, “large banks now recognise the issue” and were increasingly willing to cooperate with international financial investigators.

“Eleven leading lenders, including UBS and HSBC, have formed the Wolfsberg Group, an association to develop standards to counter money laundering and terrorist financing,” the NYT said, adding that governments were  being urged to provided lists of “politically exposed persons, those potentially subject to corruption because of their jobs.”

The NYT spoke to Finance Minister Ali Hashim, who said that “the banks and other institutions came from abroad, and lowered their standards to the standards that were in the country.”

Foreign bank managers were given free holidays on luxury tourist resorts, Hashim told the NYT, which might have made it “hard for those managers to subsequently turn down risky or inappropriate credit requests.”

Hashim said the government now needed the money to offset a decline in tourism and plug the country’s 34 percent budget deficit.

“What we are asking the World Bank is, help us get this back,” Hashim told the NYT. “Then we won’t need to have that much foreign aid.”


31 thoughts on “NYT report claims government and StAR seeking $400m in stolen assets”

  1. I'm really glad that the authorities are working with the World Bank and the UN to get our money back.

    When Gayoom was in power, people knew of all the shady deals going on and of all the wasteful expenditure on the "royal" family. Seeing it in print in one of the world's most reputable newspapers is heartening.

    Let this be a lesson for commercial institutions that bankroll corrupt regimes like Mr. Gayoom's. You can run, but you can't hide.

  2. Mr. Maumoon is innocent. He is the best leader ever. Long live Maumoon.

  3. The NYT's article starts off as though there was something substantial to report. But all it said was that our government claims that the former leaders stole millions - another one of those cheap shots to get some sympathy from international funding agencies. What a joke!

  4. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!!!!! If our GDP is 1.2 billion dollars and Gayoom has 4 million with him that is just over 33 percent of GDP, which is our national deficit right???? Somebody please help me my head is going crazy!!!! If this money is recovered through the World Bank and UN and they have proof, I am going to march to Maakun Naeems house with a manual weighing gadget and weigh him with babukeyo bodubai....

  5. "If our GDP is 1.2 billion dollars and Gayoom has 4 million with him that is just over 33 percent of GDP"


  6. Well this may be written in a fanous news paper. But its all amature and void any substantial facts.The author of the article brings shame to the news reposting and journalism.

  7. NYT sounded more like one of those Folhi which came out in 10's during last few years of Gayooms presidency when freedom was given to press.

    The yaught,presidential palace and 50 cars where are they. NYT sounded Gayoom has stolen them and taken to Alivaage gudhan.

    STAR or American Congress of any one,
    first Maldivian Govt has to prove such a fraud. What happened to Riyaasee Commision.

    First get the judgement from maldivian Court. Putting the horse before the cart will be embarrasing to whoever claims so.

  8. Useless piece of information, nothing new just the old allegations....Former President Maumoon never took a single cent...YES HE DID LIVE LIKE A KING BUT THAT IS LEGAL>>HE NEVER STASHED CASH AWAY LIKE THE MARCOSES>>WHATEVER HE USED ITS THERE FOR ALL TO SEE AND ITS ALL LEGAL.

  9. This is nothing but Dhebogeridhuvvun when ever MDP face low in public opinion, they bring this issue, some puppets in western media they give some bucks to publish something, thinking rest of us in Maldives are fools.

    This time everything they are doing to distract public from the upcoming no confidence vote in the parliament against education minister.

  10. if new government all ready recovering 400m$ life must be easy in Male but in fact life only worse and worse!no new hospitals and rehab center,so question is where those money disappear in new private account of democracy world cup players?

  11. Yes he sitting on the golden pot.
    Start with Illabey when he was initially exposed in early '90s and suddenly chartered the small Air Maldives aircraft and ran away with 12 suitcases. Maybe nappies.
    Golhabo said nobody is above the law but a few months later brought him back and gave another Ministry.

  12. An estimated US$9.5 million was spent buying and delivering a luxury yacht from Germany for the president; $17 million was spent on renovations of the presidential palace and family houses. Mr Gayoom built a saltwater swimming pool, a badminton court and a gymnasium, and he bought 11 speed boats and at least 55 cars — including the country’s only Mercedes-Benz,” the NYT noted.
    wawawaaa...these are not his for Gods sake..those are ours and it still belongs to the Government..pls ammend ur report..NYT sucks

  13. ---and saltwater is cheaper than fresh water in Maldives u idiots buhahahah

  14. pls get us the stolen money from FPID first..few families are are enjoying overseas from the stolen FPID money...

  15. Dear Minivan News,

    I have been accusing you of bringing stale news to us.

    After reading the article on New York times, I am thinking, reporting on stale news does not seem to be unique to you guys. It is practiced even by a prestigious paper like New York Times.

    I could not find anything on the article about Maldives that I have not read on Minivan News and other Maldivian newspapers. Looks like sometimes, news takes a while to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Are you guys also based in New York? A few weeks ago, I thought sometimes you are based in England.

    Kind regards,


  16. what nonsense , always , allegation, show the proofs, Do u thinks that we 'Maldivians' are fools. we fed up with hearing this nonsense allegation. Just stop this mess and do something good for the country. Now the country is becoming more worse then the Gayoom regime .

  17. wht about our ex president Nasir n the gang....international agencies pls dig into this too...

  18. If 400 million expected, please buy back Dhiraagu shares from C&W and don't sell Male' Airport to Indians.

  19. JJ Robinson: You read this bullshit paper NYT and put it on the next bull shit MN. Its all rubbish and untrue.

  20. amazed....all Maldivians except finance minister n minivan news knows that the goods mentioned are now been happily utilised by the present government. which president in which country does not buy stuff....oh this is no info.

  21. Good work Iruthisham. (Maldives Ambassador in Geneva)you are really holding on to the balls of Dr Shaheed. Dr Shaheed has been pushing hard on Iruthisham's a$$ to get Paris based NYT reporter and publish this, finally she has made it.

    Keep laughing Dr Shaheed

  22. pls change the account name from Gayyoom to Nasheed..thats all Star has to do..

  23. Loa Laari egga ves jehifaka neh, jehifaka neh .....
    Majuleehuge Gaumee Salamathee Commitee in NYT varah harukashi ibaarathun kuvveri kurey.
    Ali Waheed aai Mahloof NYT aai idhikolhah muzaaharaa kurumah govalaafi. Adi NYT bandhu nukuranees muzaaharaa nu huttaane kamuuge inzaaru ves dheefi. Umaru naseeru vidhaalhuvee emanikufaanu mikamugaa banduhaihoonu kamuge halhuthaalakah dhaan gasdhu kuraakamah.
    mi massala hifaigen Roxana Antarctica ah vadaigenfi.
    NYT ge mi amalaa gulhugen, Obama aai medhu no-confidence voteh negumah Muttalib ves govaalaifi. Beyfulhaage haasa engevumakah Mikamugaa ithurah elheyne fiyavalhuthah belumah takai, Machchangoalhi buraai, kudahenveiru, adhi Masodge in ves masvaraa kuramun dhey.

  24. Oh God! after almost 2 years I woke up...and same ol' stuff...Yawn...going back to sleep...someone wake me up when there is something new.

  25. We should never forget about the money that was stolen. The regime was in power for so long and their net so wide that a change of the government does not immediately change the people in power to recover this money. There are plenty of people elevated by the old regime and it will take many years before this implanted power brokers start to lose grip of the control. It is only then we have a real chance of recovering this money. But we must recover this. People who say past is past and lets move on are living an illusion. There will be no peace until justice is delivered.

  26. NOT INTERESTED ANY MORE... The Presidential Commission to look into past corruption is a disaster by itself. 2 years and nothing! They have not been able to bring any substantial evidence of 'real' corruption that they have been alleging about.

    If they do find any evidence against opposition MPs, they are being used to blackmail them into joining MDP or signing an agreement with them (like the case of Kaashidhoo MP Hameed or Eydhafushee MP Saleem).

    So the bottom line is that government does not care about the country or recovering the funds. They would immediately stop talking about these if (hypothetically) yameen, abdulla hameed, nazim or even maumoon or others joins MDP.

  27. HassanK, agree, but has to be looked into not only Yamin, Hameed, Maumoon..But Zaki, Naseem, Ilyas, Sato, ahmed abdulla, Ali Abdulla etc also.

  28. Dhivehin bunee E ee New York Folhi oa.
    The editor of New York Times has got a fever after he heard the Maldivian political party DRP's anger over the article. Anyways its very few people who read the NYT dho. After all its not as popular as Haveeru or Aafathis.


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