Allegations of STO’s blackmarket oil deals with Burma “politically motivated”: Gayoom

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has lashed out at comments made by the Presidential Commission yesterday that top-level officials from the former administration were involved in blackmarket oil deals with the Burmese military junta.

The allegations were first published in India’s The Week magazine on Friday. In the article, CNN-IBN Chief National Correspondent Sumon K Chakrabarti described Gayoom’s half brother and former STO Chairman Abdulla 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 article, which has since been published on the magazine’s website, also claimed that Singaporean police were investigating the incidence of shipping fraud linked to STO Singapore. It drew heavily from a draft report from forensic accountancy firm Grant Thorton, commissioned by the Maldives government to investigate financial records on three hard drives pertaining to STO Singapore’s operations.

Gayoom has claimed that the allegations by the Presidential Commission were politically motivated. Newspaper Haveeru reported Gayoom as distancing himself from the STO, quoting the former President as saying that “I [had] no connections with the STO when I was the president and after that.

“STO has a board and a Chairman that oversee all the operations of the company. I never [got] involved in the matters of STO. The company will reveal its annual financial report at its General Meeting every year and discuss on the matters [raised in the report],” Haveeru reported Gayoom as saying.

“The commission is trying to tarnish my reputation because of the support given to me by the residents of the islands and the success DRP achieved in the local council election,” he reportedly added.

Yameen dismissed the allegations as “absolute rubbish” following the publication of Chakrabarti’s original story in The Week.

He acknowledged using the STO to send funds to his children in Singapore during his time as chairman, but denied doing so 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,” he told Minivan News.

Yameen also denied being under investigation by the Singaporean police.

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. “

In a subsequent interview with VTV’s ‘Fas Manzaru’ program, Yameen acknowledged flying to Burma during a period when the STO faced a rice shortage, “a very long time ago.” He had not visited in the past 16 years, he said.

“Perhaps this government is afraid that with my supposed Myanmar military links, I might bring over weapons from that country and overthrow this [Maldivian] government. But I have to say that those military officials in the Burmese government are ones I have never met. I don’t even know them,” Yameen told VTV.

He also announced that he was “ready to offer anyone 90 percent” of the alleged US$800 million in laundered money cited by The Week article, “if they locate it for me.”

“I only want 10 percent. If I get US$800 million now, 10 percent of that will suffice for me. Even if I get around US$80 million dollars, it will be enough for me,” Yameen said.

“Therefore this time for anyone who helps locate this [money], I am ready to hand over 90 percent of all that into the finder’s name.”

Yameen called on police to investigate the matter alongside previous allegations in the Indian press that President Nasheed had consumed alcohol.

“I welcome investigation. But if investigations are being done, then it should also be investigated when an Indian newspaper publishes such defamatory material against the President,” Yameen said.

The Presidential Commission has meanwhile stated that details of the alleged racketeering would be disclosed on conclusion of the investigation, in collaboration “with international parties”.