Former presidential advisor accuses tourism minister, finance minister of corruption in Fushidhiggaru deal

Former presidential advisor Ahmed ‘Sandhaanu’ Didi has accused Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb and Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad of illegally selling off Fushidhiggaru Lagoon in Kaafu Atoll without the knowledge of then – President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Speaking at a press conference today, Didi showed an agreement signed between the government and Ukranian company Prime Capital Pvt Ltd during Waheed’s administration on developing Fushidhiggaru.

The former Special Envoy on Human Rights claimed Waheed only discovered news of the deal when the investors attempted to register a joint venture company at the Ministry of Economic Development, but said both ministers denied the move at the time.

“I was at the president’s office then. Dr Waheed summoned Adeeb and Jihad and asked whether Fushidhiggaru lagoon had been sold off to a foreign party and they denied that any such thing was done,” he told the press.

Neither Adeeb nor Jihad were responding to calls at the time of press.

The Fushidhiggaru deal first came to light during the 2013 presidential elections, when current Home Minister Umar Naseer claimed Adeeb had sold off the lagoon without a transparent and public bidding process.

JP coalition claimed that the agreement was compiled, signed and stamped without legal advice from the Attorney General, in the late hours of January 18, 2013, a Friday night.

At the time, Adeeb denied the existence of an “official” lease agreement and dismissed the allegations as an attempt at “political assassination.”

Despite Adeeb’s denial, local media in September 2013 reported that the Economic Ministry had refused to register a joint venture company for the development of Fushidhiggaru lagoon with Prime Capital.

The company subsequently filed a lawsuit against the Economic Ministry at the Civil Court.

In a verdict (Dhivehi) delivered on July 15, Civil Court Judge Ali Naseer ordered the government to register the joint venture company within a seven-day period, sign a master lease agreement within five days of registration, “and [to] make all arrangements undertaken by the government in accordance with the agreement.”

Didi today said he has submitted relevant documents and letters to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Anti-corruption Commission and Maldives Police Services requesting the matter be investigated.

“This is the most deceitful and biggest embezzlement in recent Maldivian history,” he said.

“I am aware that by talking about this I am endangering my own safety, but this must be done for the future generation. Prophet Mohamed, peace be upon him advised us to reveal the truth no matter how bitter it may be.”

Didi was imprisoned in 2003 for writing and distributing a newsletter called “Sandhaanu” which criticized President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s policies.

Former Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim in November released a report implicating Adeeb in a US$6million corruption scandal.

Adeeb has denied allegations, and accused Niyaz of colluding with MP and former Deputy Speaker of parliament Ahmed Nazim in releasing the audit report. Adeeb suggested Nazim had a personal vendetta against him following his refusal to support Nazim for the Majlis Speakership in May.

Niyaz was subsequently dismissed from the post through a surprise amendment to the Audit Act, and Hassan Ziyath, the brother of an official implicated alongside Adeeb, was appointed as the new Auditor General.

The Criminal Court on October 26 withheld Nazim’s passport on allegations of blackmail while the Supreme Court today held the first hearing into an appeal of the High Court’s acquittal of Nazim from four counts of corruption.

Photo: President Abdulla Yameen’s cabinet

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Government announces completion of all tsunami housing units

The government has announced the completion of all housing units constructed by the state for people made homeless in the 2004 tsunami disaster.

In a joint press conference held today by the housing and finance ministries, Minister for Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muizzu declared that 298 housing units in four islands in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, and 41 housing units in Thaa Madifushi have now been completed.

Muizzu stated that the government had taken direct control of the project last November on the decision of President Abdulla Yameen following numerous attempts to negotiate with the contractors regarding the delays in work.

On the ninth anniversary of the disaster in December 2013, Yameen had pledged to complete permanent housing for all the 427 families who remained homeless.

Muizzu did not reveal whether new private contractors had been brought in to complete the unfinished work, saying only that there would be no “legal problems in any of the work the government has directly been involved in”.

He also stated that the government took over the project after seeking legal advice from the attorney general and noted that the Anti Corruption Commission and the auditor general were invited to review the proceedings.

Finance minister Abdulla Jihad stated that Vimla Construction Pvt Ltd was awarded a US$20 million contract in October 2008 to build the housing units in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll for completion within 14 months. Jihad said that approximately US$16.6 million had been spent up to now.

He also noted that the delays and the need for the government to become directly involved in the completion of the housing units meant the projects were likely to cost more than expected, although the full amount has not yet been determined.

“STO has supplied substantial amounts, we estimate that the value (of supplies by STO) will be a significant sum,” Jihad said.

The finance ministry’s audit report of 2011 revealed that it had spent MVR17.5 million to transport materials for the construction of the tsunami housing units in Gaafu Dhaalu. The audit report noted that the expenses, which were not included in the finance ministry’s budget, should not have been paid.

Further, the audit report also recommended a specific audit be done and a report published on the tsunami housing units contracted to Vimla Construction.

The 2004 tsunami resulted in 82 deaths and 26 missing persons in the Maldives. Figures from the UN show that the disaster displaced nearly 10 percent of the Maldives’ population, severely damaging a quarter of inhabited islands with 14 completely evacuated.

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President Yameen appoints five ministers to cabinet

President Yameen Abdul Gayoom has reappointed four incumbent ministers to his cabinet and his niece Dunya Maumoon as Minister of Foreign Affairs, at a ceremony held at the President’s Office at 8:30pm last night.

Retired Colonel Mohamed Nazim was reappointed to the post of Minister of Defense and National Security, Abdulla Jihad as Minister of Finance and Treasury, Ahmed Adheeb as Minister of Tourism and Ameen Ibrahim as Minister of Transport and Communication.

Nazim was a key figure in the ousting of former President Mohamed Nasheed. In the last months of Dr Waheed’s presidency, Nazim dealt with dissent within the military ranks, suspending several officers for petitions expressing concern over presidential poll delays. Nazim also amended the Military Act adding a clause punishing incitement of chaos and upheaval in the military.

Dunya Maumoon is the daughter of former president of 30 years Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and niece to President Yameen. She served as the State Minister for Foreign Affairs under former President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

Dunya was a key figure in defending the legitimacy of Dr Waheed’s cabinet in the international community following Nasheed’s allegations of coup d’état. She had previously served as the Assistant Representative of the Maldives Office of the UNFPA and held the post of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2007-2008 during her father’s tenure.

Abdulla Jihad also served in President Gayoom’s cabinet in 2008 and went on to become a Civil Service Commission (CSC) member in 2010. When Dr Waheed assumed the presidency, Jihad was sworn in as Minister of Finance in March 2012.

Before Adheeb was appointed as Tourism Minister in Dr Waheed’s cabinet, he held the post of the President of the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) and was a well known critic of Nasheed’s economic policies. Under his leadership, the MNCCI made a failed attempt in court to halt the enactment of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act, citing worse economic ramifications and violations of law.

During his tenure in Dr Waheed’s cabinet, Adheeb was embroiled in a controversy involving the infamous pair of Armenian brothers linked with drug trafficking, money laundering, raids on media outlets and other serious crimes in Kenya.

Transport Minister Ameen has also served in key political positions in Gayoom’s presidency including Deputy Minister of Gender and Family and went on to become the Chief Executive Office of Villa TV. He is a member of presidential candidate Qasim Ibrahim’s Jumhooree Party (JP).

After Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz administered the oath of office, Yameen asked his ministers to serve the state with sincerity and hard work to the best of their ability

Following the oath ceremony, Yameen met with the senior officers of the Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) and pledged to strengthen the military. The MNDF greeted the commander in chief with a guard of honour and the national anthem at Bandaara Koshi.

Yameen also met with senior Maldives Police Services (MPS) officers including Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz and Deputy Police Commissioner Hussein Waheed at the Iskandhar Building.

According to the police, Yameen noted that the MPS is a noble service, but police officers faced public resentment and anger as they worked in the frontline of law enforcement. However, Yameen said he believed the public took pride in the MPS.

The President requested individual police officers to work within the law and uphold good behavior and assured the MPS he would develop the police service during his tenure. He also asked the police to expedite investigations and the process of issuing criminal record reports for youth when they apply for jobs.


Nasheed office’s allowance withheld

Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad has said that the office allowances payable to former President Mohamed Nasheed have been withheld for the past three months.

Sun Online have reported Jihad as saying that the issue was related to the unknown location of Nasheed’s office.

“We have not received any response to our letters to clarify this. The allowance will resume once they inform us the office location,” he said.

However, when questioned by local paper Haveeru Jihad said that the suspension of privileges was related to a disagreement over whether former president’s were required to conduct charitable activities.

“In reality, the office should be involved in holding social activities. However, the concern of these members is that there is no social work to be seen by the (Nasheed’s) office. It has to be clarified. Hence the financial allowances have been halted for the time being. We still haven’t been provided with the information we sought in relation to the office,” Jihad told the paper.

The paper reported that the current law on the matter states that up to MVR175,000 per month in office expenses can be provided to former heads of state conducting charitable work.

Jihad said that a former Presidents’ Immunity and Privileges Act is currently being drafted and that Nasheed will be allowed the privileges outlined in the eventual legislation.


Finance minister anticipates wage payment problems without Indian financing

Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad has told local media that the country may struggle to cover state wages and bills unless US$25 million in proposed financing from India is secured by next month.

Jihad reportedly told Parliament’s Finance Committee that balancing the national budget for the next two months would be “extremely difficult” without the US$25 million to support a US$17 Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan taken as budget support for the current month, according to the Sun Online news agency.

The Indian government had announced that it would be granting the Maldives an additional US$25 million as part of the US$100 million standby credit facility agreed last year under the previous government.

Jihad also told the committee that state reliance on Treasury Bills (T-bills) presently amounted to MVR5.3 billion, an additional deficit he said would need to be covered unless the short-term financing mechanism can be prolonged.

T-bills are sold by governments all over the world, serving as a short-term debt obligation backed by sovereign states. In the Maldives, T-bills are said by financial experts to have a maximum maturity of six months, in which time they must be repaid.

Sun quoted Jihad as saying that MVR300 million in T-bills had been received by the Madlvies Monetary Authority (MMA), though these were presently being held by the Finance Ministry owing to a “lack of sufficient cash flow”.

Jihad told Minivan News last week that the Maldives would need to brace for long-term austerity measures in order to address the country’s fiscal deficit – with further budget cuts anticipated in all government departments over the next 12 months.