Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud the former ministry of atolls development.
At yesterday’s hearing, State Prosecutor Abdullah Rabiu said Nazim was managing Director of Namira Engineering and Trading Pvt Ltd when the company’s equipment and staff were used to create fake letterheads and submit proposals on behalf of unregistered companies.
One of the paper companies won a bid worth US$110,000 to provide 15,000 national flags for the former atolls ministry.
If found guilty, the MP for Meemu Atoll Dhiggaru and vice-president of the opposition People’s Alliance will be ordered to pay Rf1.4 million (US$108,900) to the state and sentenced to between one to six years of imprisonment.
Under provision 131 of the penal code, an extra month will be added to the jail sentence for every additional Rf1,000 if the fraudulent transaction exceeds Rf100,000.
According to article 73 of the constitution, an MP convicted for over one year in jail will lose his seat.
Responding to the charges, Nazim’s lawyer Mohamed Saleem requested time to study the evidence and prepare a defense.
Web of corruption
At a press conference in August last year, Chief Inspector Ismail Atheef said police had uncovered evidence that implicated former Atolls Minister Abdullah Hameed, Eydhafushi MP Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem, former director of finance at the ministry, and Nazim in fraudulent transactions worth over US$260,000 (Mrf 3,446,950).
Police exhibited numerous quotations, agreements, tender documents, receipts, bank statements and forged cheques proving that Nazim received over US$400,000 in the scam.
A hard disk seized during a raid of Nazim’s office in May allegedly contained copies of forged documents and bogus letter heads.
Police maintain that money was channelled through the scam to Nazim who laundered cash through Namira Engineering and other unregistered companies.
Police further alleged that MP Saleem actively assisted the scam in his then-position as director of finance at the 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, brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, 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.