ACC investigates corruption in teacher training bid

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) will investigate corruption allegations made against the Ministry of Education by a private individual regarding the announcement of degree-level education for 2000 new teachers.

Speaking to Minivan News, ACC Information Officer Hassan Manik confirmed that an individual had filed a case, but refused to comment further on the ongoing investigation.

State Minister at the Education Ministry Dr Abdulla Nazeer, however, said that he was unaware of the case against the ministry, but that there was “some urgency” regarding the initiation of the degree programme.

After its president last week accused the ministry of intimidation following his criticism of recent changes to the sector, the Teacher’s Association of Maldives’ (TAM) has expressed concern over the ministry’s decisions, saying that a lot of teachers are concerned about job security.

“The association is concerned these abrupt decisions might have an impact on the education of the students as well. We sincerely request [the ministry] to refrain from making decisions which might weaken the profession, and cause some teachers to lose their jobs,” read a TAM press statement.

TAM President Athif Abdul Hakeem has publicly accused the government of going back on pledges to improve teachers’ salaries – the result of negotiations following a series of strikes last year.

The opposition has suggested that the qualification-based salary changes have resulted in 1,200 teachers applying for diplomas at Malé’s Mandhu College. The college has since been given an eviction notice by the ministry for an alleged breach of its lease – claims the college denies.

The complaint to the ACC regarding the teacher training claims the January 22 announcement was constructed in a way which unlawfully favours certain bidders, reports

The individual claimed that, with a deadline of February 5, prospective bidders effectively had only 12 days to prepare their offers, which was not enough to provide a detailed financial plan for a programme involving such a number of students spanning five years.

While claiming that some elements included in the bidding process contravened accreditation regulations set out by the Maldives Qualifications Authority, the individual is said to have alleged that the ministry was colluding with a Malaysian university.

Meanwhile, the ministry has published the new regulations on the provision of additional training for workers in the education sector, alongside a matching allowance to the 2015 salary, opening up the application for additional training.

A ministry press statement outlined the selection criteria for the programme and the points system for applicants, while giving a deadline of March 2 for applications.

State Minister Nazeer explained that the 2000 students to participate in the degree programme are not to be confused with the 2000 teachers who are to undergo further studies in order to bring them up-to-date with new minimum qualifications for teachers set out by the education ministry.

Related to this story

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ACC sends Rathafandhoo Island Council corruption case to PG

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has submitted a case against Gaaf Dhaal Rathafandhoo council President Ahmed Fauzee and three others to the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Haveeru reported that the commission has accused Fauzee and three others of using the influence of their positions while assigning security work, suggesting that the members of the proposal evaluation committee had allocated points in violation of set standards.

According to the paper, an ACC statement explained that documents and testimonies collected during investigations proved the accused had acted in violation of the State Finance Act to provide unlawful benefit to a third party.

The others implicated alongside Fauzee are Fathuhulla Basheer, Abbas Haneef, and Fathuhulla Ahmed – all members of the proposal evaluation committee.

Source: Haveeru


Stalled Ali Hameed cases “exposes state of Maldivian judiciary,” says MDP

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has expressed “surprise and concern” with the revelation yesterday (May 4) that documents of a corruption case against Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed were destroyed in a coffee spill at the Criminal Court.

An official from the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office told Minivan News that the Criminal Court requested resubmission of the case files three weeks ago, but has so far refused to present the allegedly damaged documents.

Justice Hameed is facing charges over the illegal transfer of credit from his state-funded mobile phone in 2010.

In a press release yesterday, the main opposition party stated that the lack of progress in cases involving Justice Hameed as well as “these incidents that occur when a case reaches court exposes quite well the state of the Maldivian judiciary.”

“As the documents of the corruption case raised by the state against Ali Hameed were destroyed after coffee was spilled on them, the party hopes that the Criminal Court will not decide that the charges cannot be proven for that reason,” the MDP’s press release stated in conclusion.

The Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) regulations stipulate that action must be taken within 48 hours of a criminal case being filed against a judge. However, the judicial oversight body told local media last month that a decision would be made once the court decides to hear the case.

The Criminal Court’s media official told Minivan News on April 13 that the court had not decided whether or not to accept the case.

Cases filed by the PG office are scrutinised in the order of submission “to make sure all the paperwork is complete and that there are no missing documents,” he said. The process normally takes “two to three days,” he added.

The case against Justice Hameed – accused of abuse of authority to benefit a third party – was sent to the PG office in July 2013 by the Anti-Corruption Commission after investigating allegations in the 2010 audit report of the Department of Judicial Administration.

Auditors found that a Supreme Court Justice transferred MVR2,223 (US$144) from his state-funded mobile phone on different occasions during 2010.

Sex tapes

Justice Hameed is also the subject of investigations by both the police and the JSC over his alleged appearance in a series of sex tapes that emerged in May 2013.

A further video showed Hameed and a local businessman, Mohamed Saeed, discussing political influence in the judiciary.

After the secretly taped videos of Hameed engaging in sexual relations with three prostitutes in a Sri Lankan hotel room surfaced online, the JSC set up committees to investigate the case twice – in May and December 2013.

Both subcommittees unanimously recommended the JSC suspend Hameed pending an investigation.

However, in July 2013, the JSC disregarded the recommendation citing lack of evidence, while a JSC decision on the December subcommittee’s recommendation is still pending.

The MDP meanwhile stated that disgraced judges accused of corruption or blackmail should be suspended pending the outcome of a trial, noting that the practice was “regrettably” alien to the Maldivian judiciary.

Justice Hameed’s continued presence on the Supreme Court bench violated international best practices and judicial norms, the party contended.

Other cases

Meanwhile, the 2010 audit also discovered that MVR13,200 (US$856) was spent out of the apex court’s budget to repair a state-owned car used by an unnamed Supreme Court Justice, later revealed in the media to be Justice Hameed.

According to the police report cited by auditors, the driver of the justice’s car was responsible for the accident, which occurred on January 23, 2011.

However, the official driver insisted the car was undamaged when he parked and left it the previous night.

Despite the findings of the audit report, in March 2011 the Supreme Court dismissed allegations of corruption reported in local media regarding phone allowances and use of court funds to repair Justice Hameed’s car.

Moreover, in September 2011, the ACC began investigating allegations that over MVR50,000 (US$3,200) of state funds was spent on plane tickets for Justice Hameed’s official visit to China in December 2010.

The complainant alleged that Hameed also visited Sri Lanka and Malaysia both before and after his trip to China to attend a conference by the International Council of Jurists.

A return ticket on a direct flight from Malé to Beijing at time cost MVR16,686 (US$1,080).

Furthermore, in May 2012, the ACC revealed that Justice Hameed was among three sitting judges illegally occupying state-owned apartments.


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.