An opposition party leader was taken into police custody for questioning today after failing to respond to a summons from a controversial presidential commission investigating corruption.
People’s Alliance leader Abdulla Yamin was questioned by police for more than three hours over why he ignored the summons.
Addressing press this evening, Yamin said he did not exercise his right to remain silent: “I said I am not a criminal, I came here to give information, I do not want to remain silent.”
The six-member commission was launched by the President Mohamed Nasheed in May to investigate a series of damning audit reports revealing widespread corruption under the former government, including a report on the State Trading Organisation (STO) when Yamin was chairman of the board.
Members of the opposition have denounced the commission’s activities as a “witch-hunt”.
Yamin told press he first received a letter from the commission on Thursday calling him in for questioning.
After failing to respond, police sent him a summons yesterday. He said he met with police officers at 2am today at the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party headquarters and discussed his legal concerns about the commission.
The PA leader said he told police the letter from the commission did not explain why they wished to question him as required by the law.
“I hoped genuinely that they would call me and give me the details. If they did, I could have gone,” he said.
He added his lawyer, Azima Shukoor, advised that he was under no legal obligation to comply with the summons. “I told police, the presidential commission hasn’t made any announcement that says if they summon someone that person is legally bound to obey,” he said.
STO audit report
Abdulla Haseen, a member of the commission, confirmed to Minivan News today that Yamin had been summoned for questioning over the 2008 STO audit report.
The 17-page report, covering 2006 and 2007, alleged widespread corruption. In the report, the auditor general wrote that STO’s main business transactions were made with a company affiliated to the management instead of through a transparent bidding process.
In another revelation, the report noted that US$5.5 million was pocketed by a family member of the ex-managing director of the company.
Further, the company made a loss of millions of dollars after selling off a luxury resort and a tea plantation for significantly less than its retail value.
The report also revealed the names of companies awarded interest-free credit and loans as well as a bogus purchase of US$467,000 worth of construction materials.
“He [Yamin] has a moral obligation to clear his name and his refusal to do so, raises serious questions about his decency and honour,” President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News today.
At the press conference, Yamin said he was summoned for questioning again today, but for a police, rather than a presidential commission investigation.
He said he obliged and gave a detailed statement on his reason for disobeying the summons from the commission.
On the STO audit report, Yamin said while he welcomed the commission’s investigation into his involvement as both the chairman of the company and a government minister at the time, a due process had to be followed.
“[If summoned about STO] I’d say we’d have to look through the company’s files. I’d say we’d have to get the managing director and question him,” he said.
“I am not someone who has the company’s archive at home. I am not someone who recollects everything that happened at the board.”
He added as chairman, he was not involved in the day-to-day running of the company.
Haseen, however, alleged that the commission’s investigations implicated Yamin in corrupt practices.
Yamin has now filed a case with civil court over whether the commission was empowered to issue a writ.
The commission has been criticised for its controversial mandate, which includes the right to interrogate any person, instruct police to confiscate a suspect’s passport, freeze relevant bank accounts and demand documents from any government ministry or institution.
Last month, PA Deputy Leader Ahmed Nazim’s office was raided by police and a court warrant was issued to prevent MP Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem from leaving the country.
While inquiry commissions could be set up, said Yamin, corruption cases came under the remit of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
Haseen said Yamin’s decision to file a case at court was unsurprising.
“We will defend the commission. Even if Mr Yamin is challenging publicly against the commission we will do our investigation according to our agenda which is very clear: our responsibility is to investigate the corruption cases and follow up on the audit reports,” he said.