JSC to investigate whether judge’s bribery claims breached code of ethics

The Judicial Services Commission’s legal section will investigate whether Judge Aisha Shujoon Mohamed’s bribery claims breached the judges code of ethics.

Speaking on Maldives Broadcasting Corporation’s (MBC) ‘Heyyambo’ show last Friday (February 14) Judge Shujoon said there was some truth to the belief judges accepted bribes in the Maldives, revealing that she had been offered a US$5 million bribe herself.

“Now we are starting the investigation,” said Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Spokesman Hassan Zaheen. “We can research and after that we will know.”

The JSC’s code of conduct states in article 4.6 that “If a judge is known to have been involved or is involved in such an activity, all action must be taken to put a stop to this.”

The code also mandates that judges “exhibit high standards of judicial conduct in order to reinforce public confidence in the judiciary and refrain from activities that jeopardize the dignity, eminence and integrity of the Judiciary.”

Spokesman Zaheen was unable to give further details as to which aspect of the code Shujoon’s comments are suspected to have breached.

Commitment to the code of conduct is one of five criteria to be used in assessing the performance of judges as part of new JSC regulations, introduced last month.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has already announced its decision to investigate Shujoon’s claims, with President Hassan Luthfy noting that judges must inform the ACC of bribe attempts immediately.

“Concealing bribe attempts is an offense, even by the code of conduct for judges. It is an offense not to inform this commission,” Luthfy said.

Expanding on the issue of bribery last Friday, Shujoon told her interviewer that she could not say whether judges had or had not accepted bribes, but that it may happen given the salaries allocated to judges.

“It [bribes] can be very appealing if its sets you up for life, given our pay and the amount of work we have to do. So I cannot say there is no truth to that. That is because something like that happened to me,” said the judge.

Shujoon became one of the country’s first female judges in 2007, though she told MBC that she was considering retirement.

According to a study conducted by governance NGO Transparency Maldives in December, the judiciary is perceived to be among the most corrupt institutions in the country.

Approximately 55 percent of those surveyed believed the judiciary to be most corrupt, while 60 percent and 57 percent believed the parliament and political parties to be most corrupt, respectively.


Civil Court judge reveals she was offered US$5 million bribe

Civil Court Judge Aisha Shujoon has revealed she was offered a bribe of US$5 million by a party to a case she was presiding over.

Appearing on state broadcaster Television Maldives’ (TVM) variety show ‘Heyyambo’ on Friday, Shujoon said that was the only time she was offered a bribe.

“I didn’t accept and raised my voice. So [the person] left,” she said.

Asked if she knew of cases where judges have accepted bribes, Shujoon said she was personally not aware of an instance.


Civil Court rules in favour of PPM over contested primary results

The Civil Court today ruled in favour of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in a case filed by former PPM Deputy Leader Umar Naseer, challenging the outcome of the party’s presidential primary in March 2013 in which he lost to the party’s parliamentary group leader, MP Abdulla Yameen.

Umar sought invalidation of the primary results on the grounds that 8,915 people who were not officially registered as PPM members had been allowed to vote in violation of the Political Parties Act.

In the verdict (Dhivehi) delivered this afternoon, Civil Court Judge Aisha Shujoon ruled that a decision by the PPM strategic planning committee to not omit from the official registry names of members who changed parties during the period from December 1, 2012 to February 28, 2013 was unlawful.

However, she noted, Umar Naseer did not submit any evidence to prove to the court that registered members of other political parties voted in the PPM primary.

Moreover, as the Political Parties Act did not clearly specify procedures for members to register with a party, Shujoon noted that PPM members whose forms had been accepted by the party and listed in the membership rolls could participate in the primary, despite their forms not being processed by the Elections Commission (EC) and entered into the official registry.

The judge also noted that despite a provision in the PPM’s charter or regulations for the party’s election committee to make the list of eligible voters public two weeks before voting, the list was not released in accordance with the PPM’s charter.

However, as Umar Naseer did not lodge an official complaint using the party’s internal mechanisms, the court believed that “Umar Naseer did not have any complaints regarding the matter and even though it happened, it did so with Umar Naseer’s consent.”

Based on the procedural points raised by both sides during the trial, Judge Shujoon ruled that there were no legal grounds to grant Umar’s request to invalidate the primary.

According to newspaper Haveeru, Shujoon said after reading out the verdict that the court believed there were irregularities in the PPM primary, but explained that the case was concluded based on relevant procedural issues and available evidence.

Prior to submission of the case, Umar was dismissed from the PPM on April 27 this year after levelling serious allegations against PPM presidential candidate MP Abdulla Yameen at a rally held shortly after he was defeated in the primary.

The rally was organised without the approval of the PPM council, which contended that it was held in violation of the party’s rules mandating support for the presidential candidate after the primary.

Umar went ahead with the rally despite pleas for unity by the party’s leader and figurehead, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, half-brother of the primary winner.

Umar alleged at the rally that primary winner Yameen was backed by the Gayoom family and the PPM parliamentary group, controlled all of the party’s organs, including the council and election committee, and had “rigged” the primary by ballot stuffing, falsifying the count and “pouring black money” to buy votes.

He further alleged that criminal gangs, convicts and drug smuggling “networks” were part of Yameen’s campaign team.

“Less than 24 hours after my brother Abdulla Yameen won the primary, the foremost person in the Maldives’ corruption network, Deputy Speaker of the People’s Majlis Ahmed Nazim joined the PPM,” Umar said, declaring that he would not back Yameen if he contests the September presidential election with “corrupt people” in his team.

Yameen meanwhile denied the accusations, while the PPM later asked Umar to apologise for his remarks or face disciplinary action.

According to local media reports, supporters of Umar Naseer have been joining business magnate Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhooree Party (JP) and campaigning for the JP presidential candidate. Among the high-profile defections from Umar’s camp following the disputed primary was PPM MP Ilham Ahmed, also a deputy leader of the party, who joined the JP in April this year.