A resolution proposed by MP Mohamed Musthafa calling for an official investigation into an alleged US$800 million worth of illegal oil trade involving former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and MP Abdulla Yameen was sent to committee today.
The resolution was approved 52-11 and sent to the national security committee for further review.
In his closing statement, MP Musthafa of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said that MP Yameen’s conceding during the debate last month that US$800 million worth of trade in oil did take place had “fulfilled the main purpose of my resolution.”
MP Yameen, who was chairman of the State Trading Organisation (STO) and long-serving Trade Minister under the previous government, however contended that the sale of oil to Burma was not illegal.
“This was done by forming a company in a country where such matters are most closely monitored,” he said. “That company is audited by STO auditors. An illegal business would not be allowed to operate in Singapore. This was not a secret trade.”
Musthafa however argued that Burma was under UN embargo at the time and “no ship registered at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) could unload cargo at a [Burmese] port.”
As the Maldives was a member of IMO, said Musthafa, trading by sea with Burma would have been a violation of the organisation’s laws.
Musthafa added that the US Treasury Department had labelled one of the Burmese officials involved in the oil trade with STO as “the godfather of heroin.”
“The port of discharge is stated as Maldives,” he continued. “The goods are loaded at Singapore for Maldives, but at sea the ship is diverted to the Burma port.”
Musthafa alleged that there was “serious shipping fraud” involved in the trade.
“The ship owner wants the cargo and he’s told that he’ll have it only when he agrees to a clause in the agreement,” he explained. “The boat operator will say yes because he wants the cargo. The chart agreement states he would have to help ‘a sweet bill of lading.'”
Over 30 shipments went to Burma in 2004 alone, Musthafa claimed, adding that UN reports suggested that US$80 million worth of illegal oil trade at sea occurred daily, involving “corrupt government officials.”
Musthafa challenged Yameen to present 12 kinds of documents to the government to prove his innocence, including shipping documents, bank documents such as LCs (line of credit), board of resolution for forming MOCOM, documents of business transactions, tax receipts to the Singaporean government, purchase and sale contracts, bills of exchange submitted to the banks, account statements and logbooks, cargo manifests and bills of lading of the ships.
Musthafa suggested contacting the United Overseas Bank and Standard Chartered Bank to obtain the documents and seeking Interpol assistance for the investigation.
The Presidential Commission did not have the capacity to investigate fraud on such a scale, he said.
Abdulla Haseen, spokesperson of the commission, told local media last week that evidence gathered so far “suggest links between the trade and convicts serving prison sentences.”
Haseen claimed that attempts were being made to obstruct the investigation in the Maldives, “but given that investigations are being conducted abroad there is little chance for obstruction and thus we’re making progress.”
The commission was being assisted by forensic accountancy firm Grant Thornton, British law firm Lawrence Graham LLP, a Singaporean law firm and several other international organisations, he said.