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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Online jihadists threaten Sean Paul with death ahead of New Year’s concert

A video has appeared online threatening dancehall singer Sean Paul with death should he visit the Maldives for a New Year’s Eve concert.

“‘Sean Paul’!!! If you visit the Maldives, the world will see your burnt and blood drenched dead body,” read cards held by a cloaked figure in the video posted on Youtube late last night (December 25).

Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, has responded to the threat this afternoon, stating in a tweet that the concert will go ahead as planned. Meanwhile Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has that that both bringing foreigners to perform new year’s concerts, and the issuing of death threats were both “unacceptable”.

Adeeb informed media late last month that the Jamaican artist would be appearing in a free concert in the capital Malé as part of the government’s tourism promotion efforts.

Last night’s video bears the logo of ‘Bilad Al Sham Media’ (BASM) group – an organisation which claims to consist of Maldivian jihadis based in Syria and the Maldives.

Through social media, the group has reported the deaths of five Maldivians in the Syrian civil war this year, as well as taunting the police’s efforts to locate its members.

BASM has, however, posted a statement on its official Facebook page distancing itself from the video.

“We suspect that the video was released by MDP supporters/secularists or other such anti Islamic elements who have been pushing hard to potray [sic] a threat to the Maldives which in reality does not exist, and their mouth piece Minivan News is also pushing the same lies and has been the first to report on this video.”

BASM did, however condemn the concert as “filthy” and “part of the ideological attack being waged by the kuffar and their allies on the Muslim youth to take them further from their Deen.”

Minivan News was the first outlet to report on the story in English, after a number of outlets had published news of the video in Dhivehi.

“It is for all Muslim to jihad in the name of Allah. Hence disbelievers like ‘Sean Paul’, who are like the worst of devil’s advocates, deserve nothing but death!” continued yesterday’s video threat.

“‘Sean Paul’ who is joining from abroad in the celebration of year-end 2014, end [sic] the beginning of 2015, is a major disbeliever,” came the message, printed on cards in Dhivehi, with English subtitles.

The figure, whose face and hands are covered sits in front of a black flag which has become synonymous with the Islamic State militant group, ISIS.

“We will not welcome or tolerate the destruction of such cunning men anymore.”

“Even the government will not be excused for bringing such cunning disbeliever to our soil, because our beloved nation is 100% Muslim!”

Tourism minister Adeeb has condemned the video, saying that the government would not give in to threats.

The last major western artist to perform in the capital was Irish singer Chris De Burgh in 2012. Prior to this, a concert featuring R&B singer Akon in 2010 was cancelled, with the event’s managers citing technical and security concerns.

In the run-up to the scheduled Akon concert, the Islamic minister Dr Shaheem reported receiving a number of complaints about the explicit content of the singer’s lyrics.

Today, Shaheem has commented on the threat via twitter, saying: “Bringing foreigners to hold shows coinciding with the New Year is unacceptable. Issuing death threats is also unacceptable.”

“Lessons have to be learnt from the past of those who committed acts challenging the Muslim culture,” read a second tweet.

Yesterday’s Youtube message suggested that Maldivian society was being led to destruction through “beautiful painted pictures, songs and entertainment”, decrying what it saw as the celebration of western festivals such as New Year and Valentine’s Day.

“Mixing such festivities into our culture will result in a destructive future for the Maldives and our beloved children.”

Earlier this week, the religious Adhaalath Party was reported as urging Maldivians to avoid celebrating Christmas.

November and December have traditionally represented the high season for the Maldives’ dominant tourism industry, with tourists celebrating Christmas and New Year in the archipelago’s 109 single island resorts, on which the country’s Shariah-based laws do not apply.

The online threat concluded by suggesting that those who saw the group’s actions as “extremism” are demonstrating the weakness of their faith.

Concern regarding religious extremism in the country has grown this year, with a number of Maldivians reported to have travelled to IS held territory – sometimes with family members.

Despite the government’s condemnation of the Islamic State’s atrocities, around 200 individuals marched through the capital in September, brandishing black IS-style flags and calling for the implementation of full Shariah law in the Indian Ocean nation.

Authorities arrested unauthorised Imam Hussain Thowfiq in October before sentencing him to two years in prison for leading extremist anti-government sermons in Malé’s Dharumavantha mosque.

Prior to this, former police officers and opposition politicians had questioned the capacity and desire or authorities to prosecute such activities.

Police spokesmen reported that they were investigating the video, but had found “nothing authentic”, urging calm.

*Article updated at 7:58pm to incorporate comments from police and statement from Bilad Al Sham Media.

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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.