The Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office has appealed cases concerning the alleged involvement of Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim in defrauding the Atolls Development Ministry, in the purchase of 220 harbor lights worth Rf1.95 million (US$126,000) in 2004 to the High Court.
PG also stated that it would appeal the remaining three cases of corruption charges levied against the deputy speaker.
The case appealed by the state in the High Court concerns the Nazim’s use of equipment and employees of Namira Engineering while he was the company’s Managing Director to submit bids in the name of two companies called Tech Media Service Pvt Ltd and Standard Electric Works Pvt Ltd, to provide 220 harbor lights to the Atolls Ministry without the company’s prior knowledge in 2004.
The prosecutors requested the Criminal Court recover the money paid to Nazim for the supply of the goods, on the grounds he defrauded the ministry.
However, during the trial Nazim had submitted six witnesses to prove the companies were aware of the submission of bid and presented Saleem as a witness to establish that the ministry received the 220 harbor lights.
The prosecution meanwhile presented as evidence the police investigation report, cheques issued by the state and bogus letterheads found during a police raid on Namira Engineering in May 2009.
Further, the prosecutors presented employees of Namira as key witnesses to prove they were acting on Nazim’s orders.
However, Judge Saeed Ibrahim dismissed the testimonies of the prosecutor’s witnesses on the grounds that they were the employees who had prepared the fraudulent bid estimates which were submitted.
Even though the witnesses had told the court that they had prepared the bid estimates on Nazim’s order, the judge concluded that it does not mean Nazim had ordered them to prepare the bids fraudulently.
Judge Ibrahim also argued that the act of asking was not enough to prove criminal intent.
Therefore, in reference to article 51 of the constitution which guarantees the rights of the accused, the judge concluded that the charges cannot be filed against Nazim
An official from the PG confirmed to Minivan News about the decision to appeal, but refused to provide any further details.
Deputy Speaker Nazim, who is also the Deputy Leader of government aligned party People’s Alliance (PA), along with MP Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem (then-finance director at the ministry) and Abdulla Hameed, former Atolls Minister and half brother of Gayoom, was charged in late 2009 on multiple counts of conspiracy to defraud the Atolls Ministry.
The scam – first flagged in an audit report released in early 2009 – involved paper companies allegedly set up by the defendants to win bids for projects worth several hundred thousand dollars, including the fraudulent purchase of harbor lights, national flags and mosque sound systems.
According to the report, the documents of Malegam Tailors, the company which won the bid, show that it shared the same phone number as Namira. Fast Tailors, another company that applied, also shared a different phone number registered under Namira.
The other company Needlework Tailors that submitted the bid had an employee of Namira sign the documents as the General Manager while the fourth company named “Seaview Maldives Private Maldives” did not have any record of its existence, according to the report.
However, the auditors noted that Searview bid documents had an exact date error found on Fast tailors documents, which according to the auditors prove same people had prepared both company’s bids.
The prosecution began in late 2009, after police uncovered evidence that implicated Hameed, Saleem and Nazim in a number of fraudulent transactions.
At a press conference in August 2009, police exhibited numerous quotations, agreements, tender documents, receipts, bank statements and forged cheques showing that Nazim received over US$400,000 in the scam.
A hard disk seized during a raid of Nazim’s office in May 2009 allegedly contained copies of forged documents and bogus letterheads.
Police maintained that money was channeled through the scam to Nazim who laundered cash through Namira Engineering and unregistered companies.
On February 23, 16 days after the controversial transfer of power on February 7, the Criminal Court dismissed three remaining counts of fraud against 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.
Criminal Court Judge Saeed Ibrahim on at the time 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.
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 and the Maldivian Democratic Party (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.”
Following the dropping of the charges post-February 7, the MDP claimed that the courts rewarded Nazim by “politically cleansing” him from all the corruption charges, following the toppling the party’s government after it had attempted to reform the corrupt judiciary.
Minivan News tried contacting Nazim but he did not respond at the time of press.