MPL refused to cooperate in Tourism Minister corruption investigation, says auditor general

Board members of Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) have refused to cooperate with an investigation into corruption allegations against Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, the Auditor General has said.

Adeeb is accused of abusing his position to obtain MVR77.1 million (US$5 million) from the MPL and US$1 million from Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), and loaning the money to companies owned by relatives and friends via state-owned tourism promotion company the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).

Case documents show the MPL board approved the payment to MMPRC.

Auditor General Ibrahim Niyaz said a preliminary report into the case could only be completed with input from MPL board members, but some had refused to answer summons.

“The MPL board did not cooperate with us. Some of them did not answer our summons for investigation,” Niyaz said.

The MPL did, however, provide required documentation, he noted.

MPL CEO Mahdi Imad told news agency Haveeru that he was unaware of summons. He denied any wrongdoing in the transaction, claiming MMPRC was using the rufiyaa to buy dollars for MPL.

“Our company has engaged in buying dollars before. There is nothing to hide in this case,” Mahdi said

Meanwhile, the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has said the auditor general’s report was required before the commission could initiate a probe.

Adeeb has not denied involvement in the transaction, but said such transactions were routine between state owned companies in order to avoid purchasing dollars on the black market.

As Tourism Minister he had also helped the state’s primary wholesaler State Trading Organisation (STO) obtain dollars to import goods, he told Minivan News.

“The problem here is that I am being singled out and targeted,” he said, suggesting the unfair “defamation attempt” was linked to his refusal to support certain individuals for the position of speaker of the 18th People’s Majlis.

“There is absolutely no room for anyone to say that I fled with the MMPRC’s coffers,” he continued.

The minister confirmed cheques had bounced, but said the MTDC’s US$1 million had been reimbursed, while MPL had been paid one- third of the owed amount in dollars. The remaining two thirds are due in June, he added.

The individual who lodged the complaint questioned the MPL and MMPRC’s justification, claiming: “The MMPRC is run on state funds, and as the company does not earn in dollars, it is highly questionable that the MPL gave the company money to buy dollars,”

MPL had also transferred rufiyaa to the MMPRC at a time when the company had failed to pay dividends to the government. The company had argued it did not have money in its accounts, the complainant said.

They further alleged the MMPRC Managing Director Abdulla Ziyath personally went to MPL with the company’s seal to collect the cheques, demonstrating “the act was a planned act, for personal gain by the leaders of MPL and MMPRC.”

“When one company’s MD personally goes to receive funds from another company, it is evident this act is committed in secrecy, behind the company’s employees’ backs.”

As soon as the MMPRC obtained the money, it was transferred in two installments to a company owned by Adeeb’s friend called Millennium Capital Management without any bank checks or security procedures, the complainant said.

The US$1 million obtained from MTDC was loaned to a company owned by Adeeb’s father called Montillion International Pvt Ltd. Adeeb used to own majority of the shares in the company, but on becoming tourism minister in 2012, transferred all of his shares to his father Abdul Ghafoor Adam.

The complainant does not appear to have submitted any supporting evidence for the transfer of funds from MMPRC to the two companies.


Word Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) expresses concern over MPL’s “attack” on ports workers

The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) has expressed concern over reports of government owned Maldives Ports Ltd’s (MPL) “infringement of trade union rights and freedoms,” and has called on President Mohamed Waheed Hassan to immediately terminate its “attack” on members and the leadership of the Maldives Ports Workers Union (MPWU).

In a letter on July 23, WFTU General Secretary George Mavikos said the organisation was “deeply concerned” over MPL rights violations.

These included the dismissal of six members of the MPWU, suspension of 49 of its members, reassignment of many ports workers to other ports on different islands and verbal warnings to 27 works and the threats and harassment against the President of MPWU Ibrahim Khaleel.

Khaleel had previously told Minivan News the government company mainly targeted employees who supported the ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“They send people with cameras to MDP protests to check which MPL employees take part in the protests,” he said.

Mavikos urged President Waheed “for the immediate termination of this attack against the members and the leadership of the Maldives Ports Workers Union, the reinstatement of the dismissed and suspended workers, the reassignment of the workers in their original working place as well as the termination of the threats against the President of the Union.”

The WFTU is the oldest international trade union organisation with 82 million members in 120 countries, and “struggles against capitalism and imperialism for a society without exploitation of man by man.”

It is also the founder of the International Labor Organisation (ILO). The Maldives became a member of the ILO in May 2009.

The MPWU on July 12 had accused MPL of violating employee rights, alleging the state-owned company had unfairly dismissed six employees due to their political activism.

In his letter to MPL CEO Mahdi Imad, Khaleel said: “Although the constitution guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, it is now common within MPL to stop employees from expressing certain political views, and violate the Employment Act by unfairly dismissing employees and transferring employees to different departments without prior warning or explanation of any offense committed.”

MPL must “respect an employee’s right to exercise freedoms granted in the constitution and by participating in political activities in his or her free time” and must withdraw blocks on “social media including facebook, twitter and gmail,” Khaleel added

In response, Imad in a letter on July 16 accused the MPWU of dividing employees and promoting the interests of a certain political party and threatened to take action against the union.

“We have received reports that the union is attempting to divide employees and promote the interests of a certain political party. Hence, I order and advice you not to do so. If this happens in the future, we will have to take action against you,” he said.

Further, access to social-networking sites had been blocked because they “often propagate un-Islamic, sinful activities and propagate the interests of Jews,” Imad said.