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