Yameen implicated in STO blackmarket oil trade with Burmese junta, alleges The Week

Singaporean police are reportedly investigating former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s half brother Abdulla Yameen for alleged involvement in an international money laundering racket thought to be worth up to US$800 million – if accurate, a staggering 80 percent of the Maldives’ annual GDP.

Yameen is an MP and leader of the People’s Alliance (PA) party, which in coalition with the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), of which Gayoom is the ‘honorary leader’, together maintain a parliamentary majority in the Maldives.

The allegation is central to an explosive piece in India’s The Week magazine by Sumon K Chakrabarti, Chief National Correspondent of CNN-IBN, who describes Yameen as “the kingpin” of a scheme to buy subsidised oil through the State Trading Organisation’s branch in Singapore and sell it on through an entity called ‘Mocom Trading’ to the Burmese military junta, at a black market premium.

“The Maldives receives subsidised oil from OPEC nations, thanks to its 100 percent Sunni Muslim population. The Gayooms bought oil, saying it was for the Maldives, and sold it to Myanmar on the international black market. As Myanmar is facing international sanctions, the junta secretly sold the Burmese and ‘Maldivian’ oil to certain Asian countries, including a wannabe superpower,” alleged Chakrabarti, who is writing a book on Gayoom’s administration and the democracy movement that led to its fall.

“Sources in the Singapore Police said their investigation has confirmed ‘shipping fraud through the diversion of chartered vessels where oil cargo intended for the Maldives was sold on the black market creating a super profit for many years,’” the report added.

Referencing an unnamed Maldivian cabinet Minister, The Week states that: “what is becoming clear is that oil tankers regularly left Singapore for the Maldives, but never arrived here.”

The article draws heavily on an investigation report by international accountancy firm Grant Thorton, commissioned by the Maldives government in March 2010, which obtained three hard drives containing financial information detailing transactions from 2002 to 2008. No digital data was available before 2002, and the paper trail “was hazy”.

According to The Week, Grant Thorton’s report identifies Myanmar businessman and head of the Kanbawza Bank and Kanbawza Football Club, Aung Ko Win, as the middleman acting between the Maldivian connection and Vice-Senior General Maung Aye, the second highest-ranking member of the Burmese junta – one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, perhaps exceeded only by North Korea.

Also allegedly implicated in the Grant Thorton report are Brigader-General Lun Thi, the junta’s Minister of Energy, Aung Thaung, the Burmese Minister of industry, “and his son, Major Pye Aung, who is married to Aye’s daughter, Nander Aye.”

“Another Burmese business couple, Tun Myint Naing (aka ‘Steven Law’) and his wife, were linked to the Gayooms,” alleged The Week.

According to a 2000 report on the Golden Triangle Opium trade by Hong Kong-based regional security analysis firm, Asia Pacific Media Services, “in 1996 Steven Law was refused a visa to the USA on suspicion of involvement in narcotics trafficking”, and several companies linked to him were blacklisted because of his suspected involvement in his father’s drug empire.

His father, Lo Hsing Han, also known as Law Sit Han, is named in the report as a notorious ‘Golden Triangle’ heroin baron turned businessman, with financial ties to Singapore. He was also responsible responsible for arranging a lavish wedding in 2006 for the daughter of Burmese dictator Than Shwe.

“Lo Hsing-han and his family set up the Asia World Company… involved in import-export business, bus transport, housing and hotel construction, a supermarket chain, and Rangoon’s port development,” APMS wrote.

According to The Week report, “Yameen was allegedly aided by Ahmed Muneez, former Managing Director of STO Singapore, and by Mohamed Hussain Maniku, former MD, STO. Maniku was MD from 1993 to 2008, and currently serves as the Maldives’ Ambassador to Washington.

The operation

According to The Week article, the engine of the operation was the Singaporean branch of the government-owned State Trading Organisation (STO), of which Yameen was the board chairman until 2005.

Fuel was purchased by STO Singapore from companies including Shell Eastern Petroleum Pvt Ltd, Singapore Petroleum company and Petronas, and sold mostly to the STO (for Maldivian consumption) and Myanmar, “except in 2002, when the bulk of the revenue came from Malaysia.”

The “first red flag” appeared in an audit report on the STO by KPMG, one of the four major international auditing firms which took over the STO’s audits in 2004 from Price WaterhouseCoopers.

The firm noted: “A company incorporated in Singapore by the name of Mocom Trading Pte Ltd in 2004 has not been discluded under Note No. 30 to the Financial Statements. There was no evidence available with regard to approval of the incorporation. Further, we are unable to establish the volume and the nature of the company with the group.”

In a subsequent report, KMPG noted: “The name of the company has been struck off on 20th April 2006.”

Investigators learned that Mocom Trading was set up in February 2004 as a joint venture between STO Singapore and a Malaysian company called ‘Mocom Corporation Sdn Bhd’, with the purpose of selling oil to Myanmar and an authorised capital of US$1 million.

According to The Week, the company had four shareholders: Kamal Bin Rashid, a Burmese national, two Maldivians: Fathimath Ashan and Sana Mansoor, and a Malaysian man named Raja Abdul Rashid Bin Raja Badiozaman. Badiozaman was the Chief of Intelligence for the Malaysian armed forces for seven years and a 34 year veteran of the military, prior to his retirement in 1995 at the rank of Lieutenant General.

As well as the four shareholders, former Managing Director of STO Singapore Ahmed Muneez served as director. The Week reported that Muneez informed investigators that Mocom Corportation was one of four companies with a tender to sell oil to the Burmese junta, alongside Daewoo, Petrocom Energy and Hyandai.

Under the contract, wrote The Week, “STO Singapore was to supply Mocom Trading with diesel. But since Mocom Corporation held the original contact, the company was entitled to commission of nearly 40 percent of the profits.”

That commission was to be deposited in an United Overseas Bank account in Singapore, “a US dollar account held solely by Rashid. So, the books would show that the commission was being paid to Mocom, but Rashid would pocket it.”

In a second example cited by The Week, investigators discovered that “STO Singapore and Mocom Trading duplicated sales invoices to Myanmar. The invoices showed the number of barrels delivered and the unit price. Both sets of invoices were identical, except for the price per barrel. The unit price on the STO Singapore invoices was US$5 more than the unit price of the Mocom Trading invoice. This was done to confuse auditors.”

As a result, “the sum total of all Mocom Trading invoices to Myanmar Petrochemical Enterprises was US$45,751,423, while the sum total of the invoices raised by STO Singapore was US$51,423,523 – a difference of US$5,672,100.”

Furthermore, “investigators found instances where bills of lading (indicating receipt of consignment) were unsigned by the ship’s master.”

Gayoom's half-brother and PA leader Abdulla Yameen

Money from the Maldives

Despite his officially stepping down from the STO in 2005, The Week referenced the report as saying that debit notes in Singapore “show payments made on account of Yameen in 2007 and 2008.”

Citing the report directly, The Week wrote: “The debit notes were created as a result of receiving funds from Mr Yameen deposited at the STO head office, which were then transferred to STO Singapore’s bank accounts. This corresponded with a document received from STO head office confirming the payments were deposited by Yameen into STO’s bank accounts via cheque.

The Week claimed that Yameen was aided by Muneez on the STO Singapore side, and by Mohamed Hussain Maniku, former STO managing director, on the Maldivian end until 2008.

“In conversation with Mr Muneez, this was to provide monies for the living expenses of his [Yameen’s] son and daughter, both studying in Singapore. Their living expenses were distributed by Mr Muneez,” the Grant Thorton report stated, according to The Week.

In an interview with Minivan News, Yameen confirmed that he had used the STO’s accounts to send money to his children in Singapore, “and I have all the receipts.”

He described the then STO head in Singapore as “a personal friend”, and said “I always paid the STO in advance. It was a legitimate way of avoiding foreign exchange [fees]. The STO was not lending me money.”

He denied sending money following his departure from the organisation: “After I left, I did not do it. In fact I did not do it 3 to4 years before leaving the STO. I used telegraphic transfer.”

Yameen described the wider allegations contained in The Week article as “absolute rubbish”, and denied being under investigation by the Singaporean police saying that he had friends in Singapore who would have informed him if that were the case.

The article, he said, was part of a smear campaign orchestrated by current President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed, a freelance writer and the dismissed Auditor General “now in London”, who he claimed had hired the audit team – “they spent two weeks in the STO in Singapore conducting an investigation.”

Yameen said he did not have a hand in any of the STO’s operations in Singapore, and that if Muneez was managing director at the time of any alleged wrong-doing, “any allegations should carry his name.”

He denied any knowledge or affiliation with Steven Law or Lo Hsing Han, and said that as for Mocom Trading, “if that company is registered, Maniku would know about it.”

Asked to confirm whether the STO Singapore had been supplying fuel to Myanmar during his time as chair of the board, “it could have been – Myanmar, Vietnam, the STO is an entrepreneurial trade organisation. It trades [commodities like] oil, cement, sugar, rice to places in need. It’s perfectly legitimate. “

Asked whether it was appropriate to trade goods to a country ostracised by the international community, Yameen observed that the trading had “nothing to do with the moral high-ground, at least at that time. Even even now the STO buys from one country and sells to those in need.”

Asked why the President would hire a freelance writer to smear his reputation after the local council elections, “that’s because Nasheed would like to hold me in captivity.”

The only way Nasheed could exert political control, Yameen claimed, “was to resort to this kind of political blackmail”.

“Unfortunately he has not been able to do that with me. I was a perfectly clean minister while in Gayoom’s cabinet. They have nothing on me.”

Last time around

No love is lost between Yameen and the present Maldivian administration, which detained him and Jumhoree Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim in early July 2010 on accusations of bribery and, according to the police charge sheet, “attempting to topple the government illegally.”

President Nasheed’s cabinet had resigned en masse the week prior, in protest against what they claimed were the “scorched earth politics” of the opposition-majority parliament, leaving only President Mohamed Nasheed and Vice President Mohamed Waheed Hassan in charge of the country. The move circumvented regulations blocking the arrest of MPs while no-confidence motions were pending against sitting ministers.

Several days later, audio recordings of conversations between several MPs, including Yameen and Gasim, were leaked to the media. The recordings carried implications of vote-buying within parliament, suggestions of collaboration with the officials in the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and details of a plan to derail the progress of a taxation bill.

Yameen defended the conversation at the time as “not to borrow money to bribe MPs… [rather] As friends, we might help each other.”

The issue quickly became one of invasion of privacy, and the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) issued a statement to that effect.

Unable to get an arrest warrant extension for the pair through the Maldivian courts, the government quickly found itself facing international criticism and diplomatic urging to “stick to the rule of law”, after Yameen was detained by the military on the Presidential Retreat of Aarah purportedly “for his own protection.”

While in custody, Yameen told local media he did not wish to be detained in ‘protective’ custody. The military refused to present him before the court on a court order, raising more international eyebrows.

Later in July, the President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News that the government had felt obliged to take action after six MDP MPs came forward with statements alleging Yameen and Gasim had attempted to bribe them to vote against the government.

The opposition PA-DRP coalition already has a small voting majority, with the addition of supportive independent MPs. However, certain votes require a two-thirds majority of the 77 member chamber – such as a no-confidence motion to impeach the president.

Zuhair told Minivan News at the time that given the severity of the allegations against them, neither could be considered prisoners of conscience.

“I cannot describe these people as political leaders – they are accused of high crimes and plots against the state,” Zuhair said.

“These MPs are two individuals of high net worth – tycoons with vested interests,” he explained. “In pursuing their business interests they became enormously rich during the previous regime, and now they are trying to use their ill-gotten gains to bribe members in the Majlis [parliament] and judiciary to keep themselves in power and above the fray.”

“They were up to all sorts of dark and evil schemes,” Zuhair alleged. “There were plans afoot to topple the government illegally before the interim period was over.”

Yameen was also one of many former and serving Ministers on an audit hit-list issued by Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem, prior to his dismissal on March 29, 2010.

Naeem, who was appointed by former President Gayoom, had produced a damning report detailing the previous government’s spending habits. These, according to an article on the report published in the New York Times, included an estimated “US$9.5 million spent buying and delivering a luxury yacht from Germany for the president, $17 million on renovations of the presidential palace and family houses,a saltwater swimming pool, badminton court, gymnasium, 11 speed boats and 55 cars, including the country’s only Mercedes-Benz.”

“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,” wrote the NYT, citing Naeem’s report.

The Maldives government had “begun the paper chase”, the 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.”

On March 24, Naeem sent a list of current and former government ministers to the Prosecutor General, requesting they be prosecuted for failure to declare their assets, citing Article 138 of the Constitution requiring every member of the Cabinet to “annually submit to the Auditor General a statement of all property and monies owned by him, business interests and all assets and liabilities.”

He then held a press conference: “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, during his first press appearance in eight months.

Five days later he was dismissed by the opposition-majority parliament on allegations of corruption by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), for purportedly using the government’s money to buy a tie and visit Thulhaidhu in Baa Atoll. The motion to dismiss Naeem was put forward by the parliamentary finance committee, chaired by Deputy Speaker and member of Yameen’s PA party Ahmed Nazim, who the previous week had pleaded not guilty to ACC charges of conspiracy to defraud the former ministry of atolls development while he was Managing Director of Namira Engineering and Trading Pvt Ltd.

The parliament has yet to approve a replacement auditor general.

Representatives of the former government have steadfastly denied the existence of stolen funds. Gayoom’s assistant and former chief government spokesperson Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef told Minivan News in December 2009 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 at the time. “[Gayoom] has said, ‘go ahead and take a look, and if you find anything make it public.’”

Shareef had not responded to Minivan News at the time of going to press.

Online link to The Week article

Download The Week article (~25mb)

Download leaked Grant-Thorton Draft Report


128 thoughts on “Yameen implicated in STO blackmarket oil trade with Burmese junta, alleges The Week”

  1. We the people of Maldives hereby request President Nasheed to do all what he can do to investigate the Yameen's Case which we all believe is an OBLIGATION for the President but not a FAVOR for the people

    Please do the needful without any further delay....Criminals are not only SMART but they OVER-SMART....will clean or wash the DIRTY 800 million US Dollars soon

  2. i don't think there would be lot of sana mansoors in this country. and fathimath ashan...i know at least one who is related to a popular sports star hehehe. interesting...somebody should be asking them questions...someone from the government is what i mean... 🙂

  3. Ironically the story came out on a day when Hosni Mubarak was forced to quit after 30 years. Exactly the number of years Gayoom ruled Maldives till he lost the first democratic election in the country. And how can we Maldivians forget so easily that just 4 months back, in this letter to UK PM david cameron (http://minivannewsarchive.com/files/2010/11/LettertoDavidCameron.pdf), Gayoom said that "I have retired from politics." Yet, in january, as he came back from malaysia, he blatantly lied saying that he never has!!!!

  4. kihineh dhen mi gabool kureveynee thedheh kamah. kurin kee maumoon ge bank account eh ga 80 million Dollar hurivaahaka. ekm kihineh vee emme fahun. ehen kee meeha faleeheh vee. saabithu nuhifey vaahaka dhahkaaane kameh neh.prove it.

  5. Disgusting! I hope Anni tries Yaameen in an international court and bring back the money home!

  6. Dear Mr. President Anni,

    I do not think you have shown a good governance of the Maldives especially with Justice systems and providing justice to the people of maldives. Maumoom and his allies ripped this nation long before you even thought of coming to power. "Adhives hih thiri kohgen geyga idhey" fennaane dehkkeyne ehves hekkeh nuhunnane. Huhtas US$800 million othee supreme courtuge judges ah pay koh nimifa. Prove kohdheveyne ehcheh dhen nufennane.





  8. The story is true we have evidence to prove it and we will do it this time. Most people mentioned in the report have agreed to cooperate to save them from prosecution. After all we want the big fishes let the small one return to the sea. Wait and watch how we do it.

  9. this article is too long and too incompetent, minivan news staffs should, star reporting mnbc1's program schedule.

  10. no need to write or talk about it, only few knows the reality of it, my excellency and my dear bother Yameen just rejected the claim and gave an interview to Haveeru.com. Thats it just keep quite, all these are baseless allegations, you can see great examples from countries that are ruled for life time by one person, our godly president gayoom is not like them, he is not Ben Ali of Tunisa, he is much more decent than that. there is nothing anyone can do to him. he is much cleaver than Ben ALI and Hosni Mubarak. Grayoom is great, I think majority of maldivians wants him as the leader for all eternity. Long live our king

  11. I think this is true. The Maumoon regime is a corrupted regime. Why yameen became rich in months. Even hameed. He was able to educate his family when we all of us are struggling for higher education.These are corrupted people and we should not be suppporting them.

  12. Nuthin wrong with Yamin, the trouble is with us the people, we are just too damn stupid, compared to his (possibly psychopathic) intelligence. Whats more- we match our stupidity with an equal dose of arrogance.

    Why else would, despite all evidence, circumstantial, nonetheless enough if not convict him- at least make him pariah in any sane society would he be strutting around in the Majlis?

    Bandits like him will crop up in every where, where they can get away with robbery.

    I'm not worried though- I'm glad that steps against corruption are being taken, we showed that Auditor that he can't use 'our' money to buy a tie and expect to keep his job.

  13. The story sounds credible. I am confident of justice being served if the investigation and trial is in Singapore. For the few here trying to defend Yameen, shame. For the GOM may ALLAH grant you the wisdom to deal with this patiently and properly, so that the guilty parties are brought to justice.

  14. I think shaheer is wrong. although you work in STO...Shaheer , you are a close ally of Yameen and all the hidden planning is done by this fellow..... there must be a good investigation on this Shaheer's inner circle.

  15. It all needed Sumon Chakrabati - CNN's Chief International Correspondent in India to blow the lid off the biggest crime in the History of Maldives!

    Another excellent piece of journalism from the famous investigative reporter who in the past had exposed similar major corruption in Indian politics.

    Every single allegation in the article is true. And this is just the tip of this ice berg. One name omitted in the article is Shaheer of STO who was another major crony of Yameen who had been involved in corruption with this gang.

    Yameen is a cook. So is his side kick Nazim. The money siphoned off from these corruption and embezzlement went to the pocket of Gayoom and wife too.

    The government has all the evidence to put Yameen behind bars for life. The Oil deals were just one part of the illegal and corrupt business interests of the the Mafia Boss Yameen.

  16. what happened to the findings of Presidential Commission? This is another desperate and despicable attempt by the current regime.

  17. You guys can keep screaming, President Nasheed cant do nothing, if he tries to play smart, Zaki, Naseem, maria, Sato,Jabir, Soarey etc..etc..will be busted

  18. is it really true..if so..why the government is not taking any actions on this...just writing wont be enough..has to act..why the government is sleeping?...where are the ppl who promised that they wil bring these kind of ppl to justice?..whats happening?..do the government and those who shouted really want to bring these kind of ppl to justice or just doing the shouting for the publicity?.....

  19. oh people this is our country, why are we staying like lamb ass holes.

    Our country is rich, come on, lets get our money back. are we going to allow Muamoon and Mubarak stay in a holiday village's. while we suffer.

    What happen to the funds Illiyas Ibrahim swallowed . Just because he keeps his mouth shut to caress the chamapa and buruma.

    Its time to get our money back.

    Wake up. we are talking about 400,000 people. if we look into there pockets we will live a good life.

  20. I think this country doesn't need any more bogus politicians. They all wants power nothing more . Are we really waiting for batman or superman to clean the mess!! When we saying nothing is done , just look at how many people roam around maumoon and yameen, as if they were some kind of immortal. To some extent we all are cowards . Wish superhero were real to clean our dirty city.

  21. n. didi. why are you saying "You cannot arrest Yaamin as long as Jesus Afeef & Mausoom & jabir in MDP." can you elaborate?

  22. I have to beg brumaa gasim to get my tuition fees. but now I know it can be paid easily by the goverment. come on guys lets get our money back.

  23. guys! guys! have some common sense here doesn't all this reek of fish?? look at the big picture ... just look at the events and tell me if it doesn't look "arranged"....first the near deadlock of the council elections and suddenly yameen's back on the breaking news ..where was this story all this time....and 800 million!! cumon!!.. if you are trynna make a legitimate accusation atleast bring a figure thats within a realistic boundary!! .......this is just pure entertainment! please publish stories with more creditability

  24. Maumoon was the President when all this money was stolen and international crimes committed.

    He facilitated Yameen to carry out these crimes and directly had a share of the profits from the shadow dealings in oil.

    Unless this country can put these two Mafia brothers behind bars for life, no stability will come to the Country.

  25. this is a write up from a corrupt inidian writer, they wud write anything for a piece of bread. a dollar wud do for such of piece of work. some one please do a back ground check of these writers. how many times they have done such jobs for people.

  26. I agree, let,s get our money back, but we will have to unite and come together to do this !

  27. Government needs to fire anyone involved in this, otherwise it will be seen as supporting something which is internationally watched.

  28. Only corrupt people flock around Yameen- proof that Yameen is in the thick of it.

  29. People: He bought a tie with our money!

    Justice: You are fired!

    People: He stole $800 million from us!

    Justice: Diapers are expensive!

  30. It looks like Gayaaom and Yameen owe each Maldivian national RF 34,266. I presume this is just one of many frauds. We should go to their houses to demand reimbursements.

  31. Yaameen! Yaameen! Yaameen!
    So you've gone and secured your Privileges Bill; secured a lifetime on the bench for Brother Gayoom's selected judges, and given them pay-hikes with more money from our run out coffers?
    Protective measures, huh?

  32. How was Yameen able to educate his kids in Singapore? We all know how expensive that must have been.

    We would like to know how he managed to do this on the salary of a Maldivian government Minister back then!

  33. and SHAME ON ANNI....... and we know y,,, Yaamin cannot be touched because FPID lady is the Puppet Master

  34. I will be at Jangiya's place.. Please come and protest, so I can go to Aarah. Nice wine there.. hmmm..

  35. Remember Gayoom still contemplating to sue New York Times for their story which says Gayoom took $400 million dollars. He is considering to sue everyone but he will never win anything outside the country. In Maldives his puppets are still running the judiciary. This is a true story. If Gayoom was there in power he could have asked STO former MD Maniku to show all the details. These are crooks and wonder why Anni is finding it so difficult to bring them to justice and/or to recover this money which is being used to finance their elections.

  36. The only way we can get even a fraction of this money is to bring Justice to them. Anni is coward, a big mouth. He is complacent with these crooks. Unless we take law into our hands, all these politicians are going to take us for another ride. We have to protest until Anni take actions to find this money for us.


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