DRP Leader Thasmeen settles MVR 1.9 million debt owed to Deputy Speaker

Running mate of incumbent President Mohamed Waheed Hassan and Leader of the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) Ahmed Thasmeen Ali has settled a debt of MVR 1.9 million (US$ 124,513) owed to the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim, the Civil Court has announced.

Deputy Speaker Nazim filed a court case at the Civil Court in March 2011 against the DRP Leader to recover the money – which is the remnant of a loan worth MVR 2.55 million (US$200,000) given by him to Thasmeen.

In April 2011, the Civil Court ordered the then-opposition leader to pay back the sum to the court in installments within a period of six months until the repayment was complete.

Sitting Judge Hathif Hilmy also ordered Thasmeen to pay Nazim MVR 1,800 (US$140) incurred as lawyer’s fees, based on a rate of MVR 300 (US$19.45) per hearing. Nazim had however claimed MVR 100,000 (US$6,485.08) in compensation for lawyer’s fees.

Following the verdict, Thasmeen appealed the case at the High Court. The High Court upheld the Civil Court ruling but invalidated the order concerning the payment of lawyer fees.  The case was presided by now-suspended-High Court Chief Judge Ahmed Shareef, Judge Abdulla Hameed and Judge Ali Sameer.

Despite the High Court ruling, Thasmeen had not paid the debt which forced Nazim to file another lawsuit in Civil Court requesting the court to enforce its previous verdict that was upheld by the High Court.

Civil Court subsequently issued a court order freezing the bank accounts of Thasmeen and withholding his passport – preventing him from leaving the country. During the hearings, Thasmeen’s lawyers told the court that they were preparing to appeal the High Court ruling at the Supreme Court.

However, the Civil Court judge responded that the civil case would proceed until such a time when the Supreme Court decides to hear the appeal.

In an announcement made on Wednesday (July 3), the Civil Court said that since Thasmeen has paid the court the sum of money, the court order freezing his bank accounts and withholding his passport will cease to have its effect.

Meanwhile former MP for Thimarafushi Constituency Mohamed Musthafa has filed a case at the Supreme Court requesting the apex court to declare the seat of Thasmeen in parliament vacant, over the unpaid debts.

As per the Maldivian constitution, “a person shall be disqualified from election as, a member of the People’s Majlis, or a member of the [parliament] immediately becomes disqualified, if he has a decreed debt which is not being paid as provided in the judgment.”

The former opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP – who lost his own seat through a Supreme Court ruling over unpaid debts – said Thasmeen’s seat is already deemed vacant as he had failed to pay in accordance with the court order.

Musthafa contested that even if Thasmeen repays the money, he would still lose his seat.

The former MP filed the case on the same precedent that unseated him from his seat, where the Supreme Court in 2012 concluded that Musthafa was constitutionally ineligible to remain in the seat over his failure to pay the debts.

Should the Supreme Court rule in favour of Musthafa, apart from losing his seat Thasmeen would face serious complications in becoming the running mate of a presidential candidate since the same constitutional prerequisite – to not have a decreed debt that is not being paid as ordered by a court – applies to those contesting for the position of president and vice president.


MMA accepts MDP MP Musthafa’s BCCI debt after the court rejected the money

The Civil Court has refused to accept payment of the debt it had ordered paid by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Musthafa, after the ruling against him was last week upheld by the Supreme Court.

The case had been filed against him by Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Deptuy Leader Umar Naseer, and the ruling meant that Musthafa was disqualified as an MP for the former ruling party, forcing a by-election in his seat of Thimarafushi.

Musthafa this morning sent a person to pay the debt to the court – a loan of US$31,231.66 (Rf 481,952) borrowed from the now defunct Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).

The Civil Court has confirmed that a person had sought to pay the debt on Musthafa’s behalf, after the Supreme Court ruling did not mention that the money was to be paid to the former ‘Madhanee’, or Civil, Court.

Until President Nasheed signed the Judicature Act into law last year, the official name of the Civil Court had been Madhanee Court – ‘madhanee’ being the Arabic word for ‘civil’.

MDP MP Musthafa today told Minivan News that he had been trying to pay the money every day since losing the caase last Friday, but said the court had not accepted it.

‘’Today I thought I would inform that media and send someone to the court to pay the money, and the court did not accept it again,’’ Musthafa said. ‘’I wrote a letter to the court but they did not respond to it.’’

Later today, Musthafa said the Civil Court registrar had called him and met with him, and said the Supreme Court’s ruling did not specify who the recipient of the money was to be, and that the Civil Court did not know what they should do with it, Musthafa said.

‘’The Supreme Court told me to get assistance from the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) and the Attorney General,’’ he said. ‘’So then I sent the money to the MMA, and the MMA has received the money.’’

He also said that tomorrow he will file a case in the Civil Court asking the court to order the MMA to pay him the US$500,000 that the BCCI was obliged to pay Musthafa, in a separate case concerning the supply of meat and other goods.

‘’They have today proved that the MMA are the live parent of BCCI [despite BCCI being defunct],’’ he said. ‘’This is funny to me – because when they have to pay me something owed by BCCI, they deny they are the live parent, but when I have something to pay to BCCI they become the live parent of BCCI.’’

In November last year Musthafa threatened legal action against the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) if it did not pay the US$500,000 that BCCI owed his company Seafood International, alleging that the sum was due to be paid to his company according to a 1991 London court ruling.

Citing MMA as the “live branch of BCCI in the Maldives,” Musthafa previously stated that “the debt of a dead person has to be paid by a living legal parent.”


President sends letters to three MDP MPs requesting “clarification” of corruption allegations against government

President Mohamed Nasheed has sent letters to Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs Ahmed Rasheed, Mohamed Musthafa and Shifaq Mufeeq, requesting they clarify corruption allegations made recently against the government.

According to the President’s Office, the Nasheed requested the MPs send details and evidence related to the corruption allegations as soon as possible, and urged their cooperation.

Mustafa told Minivan News that he had received the letter sent by the President and that he would share all the information he had, as requested by the president.

‘’These corruption allegations have become a national issue and the President is obliged to investigate it,’’ Mustafa said. ‘’I believe that when the president makes a request, we are obliged to share whatever information he wishes. There are many corruption allegations against senior officials of MDP and some serious allegations that we cannot share with the media right now,’’ he claimed.

“We will be sharing this information later,” he said, adding that he would reply to the president’s letter.

Several MDP MPs have recently alleged in parliament that there were corruption allegations in the government and that these should be investigated and stopped.

On November 21 during a debate in parliament MDP MP Shifag accused MDP Chairperson and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik of corruption.

He claimed that excavators sent by Moosa’s Heavy Load Company to the SAARC Summit preparations were not usable, but that Moosa was paid millions of rufiya in lease payments for the excavators that he was not entitled to receive.

MDP MP Ahmed Rasheed claimed that same day in parliament that there was corruption in the government to a level that was ”concerning and dangerous.”

Ahmed Rasheed was not in town and was not available for a comment, while Shifag was in a committee meeting and was unavailable for a comment.

Moosa also said he was in a meeting and was unable to comment.

Last week Transparency International revealed that the Maldives had risen slightly to rank 134 in the organisation’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

The country scored 2.5 on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean), placing it alongside Lebanon, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.

The score however is a mild improvement on 2010, when the Maldives was ranked 143th and below Zimbabwe. The Maldives still rated as having higher perceived corruption than many regional neighbours, including Sri Lanka (86), Bangladesh (120) and India (95).

Project Director of Transparency Maldives, Aiman Rasheed, warned that the ranking could not be compared year-to-year, especially in the Maldives where there were only a three sources used to determine the index (India has six).

“Corruption in the Maldives is grand corruption, unlike neighbouring countries where much of it is petty corruption,” Rasheed said. “In the Maldives there is corruption across the judiciary, parliament and members of the executive, all of it interlinked, and a systemic failure of the systems in place to address this. That why we score so low.”

Faced with such endemic and high-level corruption, it was “up to the people of the Maldives to demand better governance”, he said.


MDP MP Musthafa to sue MMA for alleged US$500,000 in legal debt

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Musthafa has sent a letter to the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) threatening legal action if it does will not pay US$500,000 that the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) owed Musthafa’s Seafood Company.

Mustafa said the money was to be paid according to a ruling issued by the London Commercial Court in 1991.

‘’This money was the money we paid to Generalmeat Limited in Manchester to import flour, sugar and tin during the days we imported items from Generalmeat Limited,’’ Musthafa said in the letter. ‘’We waited for the goods for months. They said they had loaded 74 containers in the name of our company and later when we checked to Hanjin Shipping Line and Bangladesh Shipping Corporation we found out that Generalmeat had not loaded any containers in the name of our company.’’

Musthafa said when he realized that Generalmeat Limited had deceived his company, the company then appointed Birkett Westhorp and Loan law firm and filed a suit in the London Commercial Court.

‘’The London Commercial Court issued a court order to freeze all the accounts of Generalmeat Limited, but BCCI pretended that they did not receive the court warrant and transferred Generalmeat’s money in BCCI to shareholders’ wives accounts in Scotland,’’ he alleged in the letter.

‘’The London Commercial Court then ruled that BCCI and Generalmeat have deceived Seafood and ordered they pay Seafood US$500,000 in 14 days, and that the money should be paid to Seafood in the duration by withdrawing money from any account of BCCI anywhere in the world.’’

Musthafa said his Seafood Company then filed the case in the Singapore High Court citing Commonwealth Law Enforcement Declaration, and requested the court seize a BCCI boat loaded with flour at Singapore port.

‘’The Singapore High Court then detained the boat, but while this case was going on in the court, nine other international companies that BCCI had deceived came to know about this case and entered into it,’’ Musthafa said. ‘’But then we realized that it would take years to reach to a conclusion while  the flour would expire in three months, so we got out of the suit.’’

Since the ruling came originally from London’s Commercial Court and the Maldives is a member state of the Commonwealth, the Maldives must implement the verdict, claimed Musthafa.

‘’BCCI is dead now and MMA is the live branch of BCCI in the Maldives,” he said. “The debt of a dead person has to be paid by a living legal parent. If the MMA does not pay us within seven days we will sue the MMA in court and when we sue, we will ask the court to take the amount of money for the loss we have had for the past 20 years as a cause of not having this money.’’

Speaking to Minivan News today, Musthafa said that if the MMA did not respond to the letter by the end of this week, he will have no other choice but to file the case in the court.

‘’It was a ruling that all the countries followed and implemented, so the MMA should implement the verdict too,’’ he said.

Governor of the MMA Fazeel Najeeb was not responding at time of press.


MP Musthafa to submit resolution against maritime agreement with Sri Lanka

MP Mohamed Musthafa of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has demanded the government withdraw a maritime agreement with the Sri Lankan government – an agreement to allow Sri Lankan vessels passage through Maldivian waters to to the Arabian sea – or face a binding resolution from parliament that will force the government to invalidate the agreement.

“The agreement is for opening Maldivian waters for Sri Lankan fisherman to steal our fish in Maldivian [territorial] waters,” Musthafa claimed. “The Sri Lankan government knows that the Maldivian waters are rich in fish and has many fishing points, that is why they have made this agreement.”

Musthafa said that Sri Lankan vessels would not normally have the fuel capacity to reach Arabian waters.

“Their intention is to steal our fish, but I cannot just stand aside and watch while they take away our fish, which is the only source of natural resource we have in abundance,” he said. “It is a right that has to be preserved for future generations.”

In response to reports in the Sri Lankan media that an agreement had been signed, Fisheries Minister Dr Ibrahim Didi told local media today that no such agreement had been signed.

However Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair confirmed to newspaper Haveeru that a maritime agreement had been signed.

“The agreement abides by the International Maritime Law and no side can disregard that. If a vessel intends to make a crossing it has to inform the Sri Lankan Embassy in the Maldives 48 hours earlier to enable a lawful process,” Zuhair said.

Musthafa meanwhile said that he had confirmed the signing of the agreement.

“I cannot tell the media who signed it on behalf of the Maldives, but I can say that the Foreign Minister will be aware of this,” he said, adding that Dr Didi’s remarks were made because he was unaware of the agreement.

“I will see how the government decides to act upon this issue and will submit the resolution if it does not withdraw this agreement,” he said.

Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror reported that the agreement will allow Sri Lankan fishing vessels to cross Maldivian territorial waters en route to the Arabian Sea.

Local news outlet Sun Online meanwhile reported the head of the DRP’s fishermen’s branch Ali Solih condemned the deal as “an insult to Maldivian fisherman” and “a dangerous deal,” since the Maldives did not have the capacity to monitor illegal fishing.


MDP MP proposes amendment lowering amounts paid to former presidents

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) acting Chairperson, MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik has called on the parliament to vote to pass amendments presented by MDP MP Mohamed Musthafa to the Former Presidents Act.

The amendments presented to the Act lowers the allowances granted to former presidents and also gives the authority to concerned department to cut the allowances if the department finds that the former president was misusing the allowances.

The amendment also requires the state to lower the monthly Rf75,000 (US$4863) financial allowance paid to Rf30,000 (US$1945).

Currently the Former Presidents Act obliges the state to grant Rf75,000 as financial allowance to any former president who has ruled the country for more than two terms, Rf50,000 (US$3242) as a living allowance for rent and other expenses of living and another Rf175,000 ($11,348) to setup his own office and deliver social services to the community.

The amendment presented by Musthafa states that if the former president already has a house or a part of a house registered on his name he shall not receive the living allowance, reduces Rf175,000 to setup his own office to Rf35,000 (US$2269).

The amendment document Musthafa presented states that the only person currently receiving the allowances mentioned in the Former Presidents Act – former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – had been granted the Rf175,000 allowance to to serve the community but had failed to do so.

Musthafa’s amendment also states that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has rented his own house and has been earning hundreds of thousands of rufiya each month, ‘’so granting another Rf50,000 for living would be unfair for the state.’’

Speaking on the amendment during the parliament sitting, Jumhoory Party (JP) Leader ‘Burma’ Gasim Ibrahim said he did not support the bill.

‘’Although Rf300,000 is allocated for him in the current [Former Presidents] Act, we know that he has been taking only Rf175,000 of it,’’ said Gasim. ‘’This is a big political game played to mislead the public.’’

Gasim also noted that Gayoom had publicly announced that he would not contest in any political elections.

Yesterday’s parliament session was cancelled after MPs started taking point of orders simultaneously. The Speaker decided the session could not be continued.

In March this year, an audio clip of a conversation made between Musthafa and Peoples Alliance Party (PA) MP Ahmed Nazim was leaked to the media.

In the voice clip, Musthafa explains that while he did not believe that former President Gayoom deserved financial benefits after returning to active politics, he had considered withdrawing the bill but was dissuaded by DRP Leader and MP Thasmeen.