Comment: ‘It’s not political’

Mohamed Nasheed, opposition leader and former President, was jailed for 13 years on charges of terrorism for an act that does not fit into any of the over 300 definitions of terrorism that currently exist across the world. One of the five co-defendants in the case, Moosa Jaleel, the current Defence Minister and Nasheed’s Chief of Staff at the time of the said act of ‘terrorism’, was cleared of the same charge yesterday. For Nasheed, the conviction came because he could not prove he was innocent. For Jaleel, the acquittal came because the prosecution could not prove he was guilty. Neither of the verdicts, according to the government, was political.

Rtd Col Mohamed Nazim, Defence Minister until charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government in February 2015, was found guilty of a lesser charge of smuggling weapons into the country. The evidence against Nazim could not have been any more frivolous or, frankly, any more ludicrous. Allegedly, he was planning to shoot and kill Yameen, his right-hand man Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, and a few others in the current government. He laid out detailed plans of how to do it and supposedly saved them on a pen-drive. More sophisticated event planning can be found in a primary school exercise book. Nazim’s legal team pointed 12 gaping holes in the evidence against him. Yet, he was pronounced guilty and jailed for 11 years. Nothing political about it, maintained the government.

Next came Mohamed Nazim, MP for Dhiggaru area, and, until Ahmed Adeeb weighed into the relationship, Yameen’s closest political ally and partner in all businesses above and below board. Yameen and Nazim went way back, even founded a political party together – People’s Alliance – which later merged with Gayoom’s PPM. Adeeb’s presence somehow muddied the waters between the friends and, before Nazim could say ‘jangiya’, he had been sentenced to 25 years (life) in prison for corruption worth 1.4 million Rufiyaa. The fraud was committed when Nazim was working in the Atolls Ministry back in 2004. When things were good between Yameen and Nazim, the same courts had said about the same allegations that ‘Nazim had no charges to answer.’ But now, out of favour with Yameen, not only were the charges worth answering, they were also worth life imprisonment. Meanwhile Adeeb, who is basking in the sunshine of Yameen’s approval, can happily ignore allegations of corruption worth millions of US dollars. Not only that, the Auditor General who dared expose the allegations, was removed from his positionand a more ‘friendly’ figure put in his place so Adeeb does not have to put up with listening to such ‘drivel’ against him. On top of it all, news came yesterday that theTourism Ministry is to have ‘extended powers’. ‘It’s not political’, says the government.

Meanwhile, life keeps getting harder to live on the islands of Maldives. Taxes have gone up, along with living expenses. Salaries, however, remain as low as ever. While each tourist who arrives in the Maldives – and according to Tourism Ministry figures there were over a 100,000 in February alone – spends an average US$350 a day, the average monthly salary of a civil servant remains below that amount. While the price of fuel has gone down dramatically across the world, electricity bills have become impossible for people to pay. Not only are the bills remaining as high as ever, the government is also cutting subsidies which made it possible for people to pay them in the first place. ‘Don’t make this political’, says the government.

Amidst all this came the news that the President’s Office has given each of the five Supreme Court judges, along with the president of the Anti-Corruption Commission, newly built apartments in Male’ at a discounted rate. Land is the most precious commodity in the Maldives, especially in and around Male’. Decades of centralisation has meant all essential services such as healthcare and education are only available in the capital city with even a modicum of satisfaction. People are desperate for housing in the area – the apartments in Male’ are meant as some sort of a solution for this problem. Yet, instead of the desperate, they are given to the already flush. ‘It’s to protect their integrity’, said Adeeb, speaking for the President’s Office. ‘It’s not political.’

While coping with the hardships of surviving in the messed up economy, half the country is out on the streets attempting to save, through peaceful civil resistance, the last remaining vestiges of democracy. The government has responded by describing civil and political rights enshrined in the 2008 democratic Constitution as ‘loopholes’ through which people are abusing the ruling party. Laws will be made to close them holes, it has said. So the authorities first moved to ban protesting in certain areas, then at certain times, then at certain decibels and, most recently, without prior permission of the police.

The police have taken into custody close to 200 people in less than a month, and the courts have taken to imposing unconstitutional conditions on their release, demanding that they don’t protest for days, weeks or even months, if they want to remain free citizens. Those who defy the bans are locked up, deprived of basic rights and even abused psychologically and physically. Opposition parliamentarians are often the victims. Most recently, MP Ahmed Mahloof defied the conditional ban on protests only to see his wife being physically, and she alleges sexually, abused by a group of policemen as he was hauled away to detention without charge for an undefined length of time. ‘Don’t make this political’, says the government. ‘It’s rule of law’.

To prove that ‘it’s not political’, the government continues to behave as if none of these events are taking place. It has announced plans to prettify Male’ with flowers all over the city; the Clock Roundabout is to get a new clock; one part of the land-sparse Male’ is to be turned into a show area of ‘what it used to be like’; buildings are to be painted; and a dozen or so Maldivians are to sky-dive into the national stadium in a grandiose gesture. Meanwhile, a travelling band of PPM activists are to tour the country setting off fireworks on various islands, when they are not travelling to award air-conditioners and other bribes ahead of by-election votes, that is.

Of course, none of this is political. These are not attempts to pretend that everything is fine. These are not attempts to show that only a few dozen mad people are out protesting, trying to upset the smooth running of a democratically elected, benevolent government which is only trying to do best by its people.

Of course not. All these activities are to celebrate 50 years of independence. Independence? Where is the freedom? you ask. Oh, don’t get political.

This article first appeared on Dhivehisitee.com. Republished with permission. 

Azra Naseem is a former journalist who now works as a Research fellow in Dublin City University. 

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]

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Ruling party MP Nazim jailed for 25 years

The Supreme Court today sentenced ruling party MP Ahmed Nazim, a former close associate of the president, to 25 years in jail on corruption charges, stripping him of his parliamentary seat.

Nazim, an ex-deputy speaker of parliament, was found guilty of defrauding the state of MVR 1.4 million (US $91,400) by submitting bids on behalf of non-existent companies to supply 15,000 national flags to the now-defunct atolls ministry.

The conviction completes Nazim’s fall from grace at a time when the opposition has accused the government of targeting political rivals. Nazim, who helped President Abdulla Yameen found a party in 2008, appears to have fallen out of favour with the government.

The High Court in February 2013 acquitted Nazim on the basis that the witnesses, who had been his employees, were not credible, based on a Supreme Court precedent that testimony by accomplices to a crime is inadmissible .

However, the Supreme Court today unanimously ruled the employees were simply following Nazim’s orders in the scam, which took place in 2004.

Nazim’s downfall will trigger a parliamentary by-election in Meemu atoll Dhiggaru.

There are three more outstanding corruption charges against Nazim, which also involve the use of “paper companies” to win bids for the procurement of 220 harbor lights, sound systems for mosques and an additional 15,000 flags.

The police have previously said Nazim gained US$400,000 in total from the scams.

Police in October withheld the MP’s passport on unrelated charges of blackmail.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb at that time blamed Nazim for a damning report implicating him in a separate US$6million corruption scandal, and also accused Nazim of defamation following his refusal to support Nazim’s bid to become Speaker of parliament.

Scams

The scams, first flagged in an audit report in 2009, also involved ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives MP ‘Red Wave’ Ahmed Saleem and President Yameen’s half-brother Abdulla Hameed. Their cases are still pending at the High Court.

Saleem was the director of finance at the atolls ministry and Hameed was the minister at the time, while Nazim ran a company called Namira Engineering. Saleem and Hameed are charged with abuse of power and violation of state finance regulations.

During the original trial held at the Criminal Court, the then-employees of Nazim’s Namira Engineering testified under oath that they were instructed by Nazim to bid for the projects – however, the presiding judge concluded from their testimonies that they were responsible for the procurement fraud and therefore dismissed the testimonies against Nazim on all counts.

According to the audit report, documents of the company which won the bid, Malegam Tailors, showed that it shared the same phone number as Namira. Fast Tailors, another company that applied, also shared a different number registered under Namira.

Another company, Needlework Tailors, which submitted the bid, had an employee of Namira sign the documents under the title of general manager, while a fourth company named ‘Seaview Maldives Private Maldives’ did not exist.

Auditors noted that the Seaview bid documents had an exact date error also found in Fast Tailors documents, and said the error was sufficient to prove the same party had prepared both 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.

Police further alleged that MP Saleem actively assisted from the atoll ministry, while Nazim’s wife Zeenath Abdullah abused her position as a manager of the Bank of Maldives’ Villingili branch to deposit proceeds of the fraudulent conspiracy.

Police said Hameed as minister played a key role in the fraud by handing out bids without public announcements, making advance payments using cheques against the state asset and finance regulations, approving bid documents for unregistered companies and carrying out discriminatory treatment of bid applicants.

A hard disk seized during a raid of Nazim’s office in May 2009 allegedly contained copies of forged documents and bogus letterheads. Police alleged that money was channelled through the scam to Nazim, who then laundered cash through Namira Engineering and unregistered companies.

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Supreme Court to hear corruption charges against MP Ahmed Nazim

The Supreme Court has accepted an appeal into corruption charges against MP Ahmed Nazim.

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives MP was charged with four counts of corruption in late 2009 for allegedly conspiring to defraud the former Ministry of Atolls Development.

According to the prosecutor general, an appeal was filed after new Prosecutor General Muhuthaz Muhsin took office in July.

The Maldives Police Services in October withheld the MP’s passport on charges of blackmail, while Nazim was linked with alleged attempts to link tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb with the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan last August.

Shortly after the controversial transfer of presidential power in February 2012, the Criminal Court had ruled that there was insufficient evidence implicating the MP in the atolls ministry scam.

The Prosecutor General’s Office appealed the decisions later that year at the High Court on the grounds that the Criminal Court had refused to accept state witnesses.

In February 2013, the court of appeal ruled that the prosecution was unable to prove that Nazim’s employees signed bogus bid proposals on his instructions.

Moreover, the High Court referred to a Supreme Court precedent which established that accomplices to a crime could not testify for or against an alleged partner to the crime.

The scam – first flagged in an audit report released in early 2009 – involved paper companies allegedly set up by Nazim to win bids for projects worth several hundred thousands dollars, including the fraudulent purchase of harbour lights, national flags, and mosque sound systems.

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 alleged that money was channelled through the scam to Nazim who laundered cash through Namira Engineering – of which Nazim was the managing director – and unregistered companies.

Paper companies were allegedly formed using Namira’s equipment and staff to bid for public tenders announced by the now-defunct ministry.

According to the audit report,  evidence was uncovered linking those companies to Nazim with phone and fax numbers stated on the bidding documents registered under his address while the company shareholders were either working at Namira or relatives of Nazim.

Then-employees of Namira testified under oath that they were instructed by Nazim to bid for the projects – however, the Criminal Court judge concluded from their testimonies that they were responsible for the procurement fraud and dismissed their testimonies.

The Criminal Court in 2012 also acquitted MP ‘Red Wave’ Saleem and President Abdulla Yameen’s half-brother Abdulla Algeen Abdul Gayoom of corruption charges.



Related to this story

High Court upholds dismissal of corruption charges against deputy speaker of parliament

MP Nazim returns to Maldives, passport confiscated by immigration

Judge frees Nazim from all corruption charges: “acts not enough to criminalise”

Deputy Speaker Nazim “mastermind” of scam to defraud atolls ministry: state prosecutors

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MP Nazim returns to Maldives, passport confiscated by immigration

The department of immigration has confirmed that the passport of former Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim has been confiscated following the MP’s return to the Maldives yesterday (November 8).

Despite the Criminal Court ordered travel restrictions be placed on the Dhiggaru MP late last month, Nazim was able to leave the country the same day.

While abroad, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) member has been at the centre of controversy regarding his alleged attempts to smear party deputy leader and Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb.

Nazim’s passport will be held until November 21, in accordance with the court order. Police have not revealed the nature of the charges facing the MP.

After a recent audit report implicated Adeeb in a US$6 million corruption scandal, the minister revealed that he had been threatened by Nazim as a result of his failure to support him for re-election as deputy speaker in May.

“But I didn’t believe the threats because the auditor general is someone I respected,” Adeeb told media after the report’s release.

“I believed up until the report was released yesterday that he would not compromised. Nazim threatened me very recently as well before he left for Malaysia.”

Adeeb expressed dismay at reports that his party colleague had attempted to link him with the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

“I am saddened that former Majlis Deputy Speaker asked different journalists to write, implicating me in the case to divert focus, as the case was being investigated by police,” said the deputy leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) yesterday.

He told journalists that Dhiggaru MP Nazim had suggested to the media that Rilwan was abducted in relation to his work on the Dhaalu Maagau case – also featured in the recent audit report.

Rumours of Nazim’s attempts to have Adeeb linked with the disappearance of Rilwan on August 8 first appeared in an independent report commissioned by the Maldivian Democracy Network in September.

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Court imposes travel restrictions on MP Nazim

Travel restrictions have been placed on former Deputy Speaker and Dhiggaru MP Ahmed Nazim following a Criminal Court order.

Nazim’s passport has been held, though police are not revealing further details of the case.

Nazim is the latest in a number of active cases against sitting MPs, the frequency of which last year prompted the Inter-Parliamentary Union to express concern.

The Progressive Party of Maldives MP was recently cleared of charges of defrauding the now-defunct Atolls Ministry.

Earlier this year, the High Court dismissed appeals from the Prosecutor General’s Office to overturn a decision reached in the Criminal Court in February 2012.

The former People’s Alliance member has been charged in 2009 with conspiring to defraud the ministry, with police revealing evidence that Nazim alone received US$400,000 in the scam.

Nazim lost his position as deputy speaker earlier this year as the PPM chose Abdul Raheem Abdulla to stand for the post, with the Fonadhoo MP eventually losing out to Maldivian Democratic Party MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik.

Additionally, an independent report into the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan also mentioned the Dhiggaru MP’s name, alleging that Nazim had attempted to implicate the tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb in the case.

The report by private UK-based intelligence firm suggested that Nazim had promised to provide a journalist with information linking Adeeb – also deputy leader of the PPM – with corruption if he could be linked to the disappearance of Rilwan.

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High Court concludes hearings into deputy speaker’s corruption case

The High Court has concluded appeal hearings into one of four corruption cases concerning Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim. Today’s case was lodged by the Prosecutor General (PG) after the lower court had ruled Nazim innocent.

The hearing concerned charges of fraudulently collecting funds through a company owned by Nazim to buy sound systems for a mosque. The amount alleged to have been misappropriated by the deputy speaker in all four cases is alleged to be over US$400,000.

According to local media, High Court judges presiding over the case today said that there would be no more hearings unless the court needed to clarify further information.

Newspaper Haveeru has reported that, during today’s hearing, state attorney Abdulla Rabiu told the court Nazim had abused his authority as a company owner and had also used staff as accomplices.

Rabiu said that there was no need to press charges against the staff used in the corruption, however, and that only Nazim was to be held responsible.

Nazim’s defense lawyers had previously told the court that witnesses produced against him were company staff who had also been involved in the alleged fraud, and who therefore were not acceptable to the court as witnesses.

The state lawyer today responded to these claims by saying that the witnesses not been charged with any of the cases, noting that the constitution states everyone to be innocent until found guilty by a court of law.

Case history

In February 2012, the Criminal Court dismissed four corruption charges against Nazim. The decisions came just days after the controversial transfer of power on February 7 that brought former President Dr Mohamed Waheed to office. The court had then ruled that Nazim’s “acts were not enough to criminalise him”.

Along with Deputy Speaker Nazim, MP Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem, and Abdulla Hameed – both then ministers at the now-defunct Atolls Ministry – were charged in late 2009 on multiple counts of conspiracy to defraud the ministry.

The scam – first flagged in an audit report released in early 2009 – involved paper companies allegedly set up by the defendants in order to win bids for projects worth several hundred thousand dollars, including the fraudulent purchase of harbour lights and national flags, as well as mosque sound systems.

According to the report, the documents of Malegam Tailors – the company which won the bid for the harbour project- showed that it shared the same phone number as another of Nazim’s companies, Namira.

Fast Tailors, another company that submitted a bid, also shared the phone number registered under Namira.

Anther company – Needlework Tailors – which submitted the bid, had an employee of Namira sign the documents under the title of general manager, while there were no records to prove that a fourth company named ‘Seaview Maldives Private Maldives’ existed at all, according to the audit report.

The auditors noted that the Seaview bid documents had an date error also found on Fast Tailors documents. According to the auditors, the error was sufficient to prove the same party 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 had 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 alleged that money was channeled through the scam to Nazim, who then laundered cash through Namira Engineering and unregistered companies

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MDP withdraws no confidence motion against Deputy Speaker

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has withdrawn a no confidence motion against Deputy Speaker  and Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nazim.

The MDP and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) submitted no confidence motion with 35 signatures in October alleging Nazim was politically biased in carrying out his duties as Deputy Speaker.

Speaking to the press last night, MDP Parliamentary Group’s deputy Leader Ali Waheed said the party had decided to withdraw the motion as the MDP intends to be a responsible opposition party and to ensure calm in the country following the PPM’s win in the November 16 presidential polls.

Meanwhile, the PPM has also submitted a no confidence motion against Speaker Abdulla Shahid. The vote was scheduled for November 20 but has now been delayed.

In November, the MDP voted out then Attorney General Azima Shakoor and has also tabled a no confidence motion against Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizz.

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Prosecution calls for for retrial of Deputy Speaker’s corruption case

The High Court has concluded hearings into a case in which Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim stands accused of defrauding the now defunct Atolls Ministry, a scam worth US$260,000 (MVR 3,446,950).

The case was first filed at the Criminal Court which ruled that Nazim’s actions were not sufficient to criminalise him. The case was appealed in the High Court by the Prosecutor General.

The Prosecutor General’s lawyers today told the High Court that Nazim used the staff of his Namira firm as tools in the scam, after the staff told the investigation that they did not know of the existence of the unregistered companies used by Nazim.

According to media outlets present at the hearing the PG’s lawyers requested the High Court order the Criminal Court to cancel the previous verdict and conduct a retrial.

Nazim’s lawyers meanwhile said it was unfair that the state was charging only Nazim in the case, despite the allegations that the staff had acted as accomplices. Nazim’s lawyers also accused the state of trying to defame Nazim.

The judges presiding over the case concluded the hearing announcing that this would be the last hearing unless the court needed any clarification.

At a press conference in August 2009, Chief Inspector Ismail Atheef said police had uncovered evidence that implicated Nazim in fraudulent transactions worth over US$260,000 (MVR 3,446,950).

Police exhibited numerous quotations, agreements, tender documents, receipts, bank statements and forged cheques they stated proved that Nazim had received over US$400,000 in the case.

A hard disk seized during a raid of Nazim’s office in May the same year allegedly contained copies of forged documents and bogus letterheads.

Fraud charges were also filed against Atolls Minister Abdullah Hameed (half brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom) and Eydhafushi MP Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem, former director of finance at the ministry who were implicated in the same case.

Police further alleged that MP Saleem actively assisted from the atoll ministry while Nazim’s wife Zeenath Abdullah had abused her position as a manager of the Bank of Maldives’ Villingili branch to deposit proceeds of the fraudulent conspiracy.

Police said Hameed played a key role in the fraud by handing out bids without public announcements, making advance payments using cheques against the state asset and finance regulations, approving bid documents for unregistered companies and discriminatory treatment of bid applicants.

During the original trial held at the Criminal Court the then-employees of Namira testified under oath that they were instructed by Nazim to bid for the projects – however, the presiding judge concluded from their testimonies that they were responsible for the procurement fraud and therefore dismissed the testimonies against Nazim on all counts.

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Deputy Speaker Nazim “mastermind” of scam to defraud atolls ministry: state prosecutors

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim was the “mastermind” of a scam to defraud the now-defunct Ministry of Atolls Development, state prosecutors told the High Court today.

Attorneys from the Prosecutor General (PG’s) Office claimed at today’s appeal hearing that Namira Engineering Private Limited – of which Nazim was a former board director – had won bids from the atolls ministry with fraudulent documents and paper companies.

The prosecutors argued that the MP for Meemu Atoll Dhiggaru, as a board director, was ultimately responsible for any corrupt dealings involving the company.

Contacted by Minivan News for comment today, Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim said he was “too busy to comment on the matter”.

In February 2012, the Criminal Court dismissed four corruption charges against Nazim. The decisions came just days after the controversial transfer of power on February 7 that brought President Dr Mohamed Waheed to office, with the court ruling that Nazim’s “acts were not enough to criminalise him.”

The Prosecutor General’s Office (PG) however appealed the rulings at the High Court in June 2012.

The appeal

During the first hearing of the appeal today – concerning Nazim’s Namira Engineering Private Limited winning a bid to provide 15,000 national flags – state prosecutors accused the defendant of setting up paper companies for the scam.

The bogus businesses were then used to win bids for projects worth several hundred thousand dollars, the state prosecutors argued.

State Prosecutor Abdulla Raabiu contended that board directors of a company should be liable for criminal transactions carried out in the name of a company under the Companies Act of Maldives.

Raabiu also asserted that Nazim was the “mastermind” behind the fraud and had fully benefited from the deal.

Highlighting apparent lapses during the previous trial against Nazim, Raabiu alleged that the Criminal Court had refused to hear witnesses produced by the state, referring instead to previous statements they had given to the police.

Furthermore, he stated that the court had dismissed the state’s witnesses as suspects of the same crime.

Raabiu argued that it was a familiar practice for the prosecution to withhold charges against suspects with lesser degrees of criminal liability in order to ensure successful prosecution of a prime suspect in a criminal case.

The prosecution said it believed the prime suspect would have a greater degree of criminal liability in the same case.

The state prosecutor also alleged that the case had been decided based solely on Nazim’s word and that the court had refused to give the opportunity to the state to prove its case against the defendant.

Requesting an order for a retrial, Raabiu claimed that the case was concluded in violation of the constitutional stipulation demanding equity in hearing both sides of a case.

The defence

Responding to the allegations by the state, Nazim’s defence counsel Aishath Shizleen contended that it should not be Nazim, but those involved in drafting the bid documents that should be held liable.

Instead of prosecuting the real wrong-doers, she argued, the state had produced them as witnesses against Nazim even when the investigation had clearly found the witnesses had themselves produced the fake documents.

Furthermore, Nazim’s lawyer argued that a witness needed to have certain standards as per a Supreme Court ruling, which had explicitly stated that evidence given by a witness who had even the slightest involvement in a crime could not be accepted to the court.

The lawyer said that the stipulation was also prescribed in the Quran.

This, she said, was the reason for which the Criminal Court had decided to reject the witnesses produced by the state. Nazim’s defense counsel requested the High Court to declare that the decision reached by the Criminal Court was valid and that no retrial was required.

Scam allegations

Along with Deputy Speaker Nazim, MP Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem (then-finance director at the ministry) and Abdulla Hameed, former Atolls Minister and half brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, were 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 harbour lights, national flags and mosque sound systems.

According to the report, the documents of Malegam Tailors, the company which won the bid, showed 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, which submitted the bid had an employee of Namira sign the documents under the title of 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 had noted that the Seaview bid documents had an exact date error also found on Fast Tailors documents.  According to the auditors, the error was sufficient to prove the same party 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 alleged that money was channeled through the scam to Nazim, who then laundered cash through Namira Engineering and unregistered companies.

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