PPM MP Musthafa calls on PG to withdraw charges against Nasheed

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Mohamed Musthafa has called Prosecutor General Muthaz Muhsin to withdraw terrorism charges against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The MP for Thaa Thimarafushi told newspaper Haveeru yesterday that there were no legal grounds to raise terrorism charges against the opposition leader.

The military’s controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed could not be an act of terrorism, the pro-government MP said.

Moreover, the “whole country should be ashamed” of the police manhandling Nasheed outside the court building on Monday, he added.

However, Musthafa denied rumours that he would be joining the Jumhooree Party.

Formerly an outspoken member of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Musthafa defected to the PPM shortly after last year’s parliamentary election.


MP Musthafa donates flour, sugar, and rice to constituents

Ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Mohamed Musthafa has donated a bag of rice, flour and sugar to every household in his constituency for Ramadan.

Musthafa told local media the MVR300,000 worth of donations was intended to help his constituents in Thimarafushi and Veymandoo Islands in Thaa Atoll.

“I do this every year. Before I gave them money. But this time instead of money, I gave them staples so they can use it for Ramadan,” Musthafa told Channel News Maldives (CNM).

He said a majority of Maldivians continue to live in poverty without basic necessities. MPs must take care of their constituents, he said.

Although the public think salaries and benefits of MPs to be excessive, “it is nothing compared to all that the [MPs] have to do,” Musthafa said adding that most MPs are not able to live on their salaries.

The monthly salary of a Maldivian MP is US$7,083 – a figure considerably higher than their counterparts in many developed countries.

Musthafa claimed an MP makes MVR3.5 million (US$22,6537) in each term and said “One has to spend much more than that to even get into the Majlis.”

MP for Thaa Atoll Guraidhoo, Hassan Manik Dhon Manik also donated staples to the needy in his constituency.


MP rejects authority of Criminal Court after judge releases armed “I was just cooking” civilian

Today’s Criminal Court hearing for a case involving ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP for Thimmarafushi Mohamed Musthafa was cancelled after the MP refused to accept the court summons on the grounds that the court’s judges were unlawfully appointed.

Musthafa added that Thimarafushi island council had advised against his attending the hearing.

Musthafa’s comment came after the Criminal Court today ordered the release of a man arrested for carrying a knife as protesters spread throughout Male’ on Friday evening.

Hassan Areef, who has prior convictions for violence, was arrested in Henveiru ward by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) before being handed over to police.

Appearing in court today, Areef claimed he had been preparing a meal using a butter knife when he went outside to see the commotion, unintentionally carrying the knife with him, according to local media.

The criminal court accepted Areef’s version and ordered his release. Police have announced their intention to appeal the verdict.

Meanwhile, in a letter to the court, Musthafa justified his refusal by citing President Mohamed Nasheed’s position that lower court judges were not appointed in accordance with Article 149 of the constitution, therefore their rulings held no legal weight.

According to Article 149, “A person appointed as a Judge in accordance with law, must possess the educational qualifications,  experience  and  recognised competence necessary to discharge the duties and responsibilities of a Judge, and must be of high moral character.”

The article further requires judges to be a Sunni Muslim of at least 25 years of age, who has not been convicted of an offence and is of sound mind.

Musthafa has been charged for bounced cheques.

The MP faces multiple charges of cheque fraud, notably over transactions made by his company Seafood International Pvt Ltd.

Citing deception by food supplier General Meat Ltd, Musthafa threatened legal action against the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) in November if it did not pay the US$500,000 that the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) owed Seafood International.

Musthafa alleged 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. 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.’’

Meanwhile, a case filed in 2009 by opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Vice President Umar Naseer claims Musthafa must be removed from Parliament due to a decreed debt which is in violation of Article 73(c)1.

The Supreme Court was due to rule on a case against Musthafa on October 20, however proceedings were interrupted when MDP called for a nation-wide protest against the judiciary during an emergency meeting.

Speaking to Minivan News at the time, MDP MP and spokesperson for the party’s Parliamentary Group, Mohamed Shifaz, said judges had been blackmailed and that the party would protest the politicised judiciary indefinitely.

This month, the opposition took up the protest baton and demanded the release of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed from military detention. The Judge was arrested on January 16, 2012. Protestors have demonstrated against the government since that date.

Contending that the judge was lawfully arrested, the government has requested international legal assistance to resolve what has been labelled a “judicial crisis”.


Resolution calling for investigation into alleged US$800 million illegal oil trade sent to committee

A resolution proposed by MP Mohamed Musthafa calling for an official investigation into an alleged US$800 million worth of illegal oil trade involving former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and MP Abdulla Yameen was sent to committee today.

The resolution was approved 52-11 and sent to the national security committee for further review.

In his closing statement, MP Musthafa of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said that MP Yameen’s conceding during the debate last month that US$800 million worth of trade in oil did take place had “fulfilled the main purpose of my resolution.”

MP Yameen, who was chairman of the State Trading Organisation (STO) and long-serving Trade Minister under the previous government, however contended that the sale of oil to Burma was not illegal.

“This was done by forming a company in a country where such matters are most closely monitored,” he said. “That company is audited by STO auditors. An illegal business would not be allowed to operate in Singapore. This was not a secret trade.”

Musthafa however argued that Burma was under UN embargo at the time and “no ship registered at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) could unload cargo at a [Burmese] port.”

As the Maldives was a member of IMO, said Musthafa, trading by sea with Burma would have been a violation of the organisation’s laws.

Musthafa added that the US Treasury Department had labelled one of the Burmese officials involved in the oil trade with STO as “the godfather of heroin.”

“The port of discharge is stated as Maldives,” he continued. “The goods are loaded at Singapore for Maldives, but at sea the ship is diverted to the Burma port.”

Musthafa alleged that there was “serious shipping fraud” involved in the trade.

“The ship owner wants the cargo and he’s told that he’ll have it only when he agrees to a clause in the agreement,” he explained. “The boat operator will say yes because he wants the cargo. The chart agreement states he would have to help ‘a sweet bill of lading.'”

Over 30 shipments went to Burma in 2004 alone, Musthafa claimed, adding that UN reports suggested that US$80 million worth of illegal oil trade at sea occurred daily, involving “corrupt government officials.”

Musthafa challenged Yameen to present 12 kinds of documents to the government to prove his innocence, including shipping documents, bank documents such as LCs (line of credit), board of resolution for forming MOCOM, documents of business transactions, tax receipts to the Singaporean government, purchase and sale contracts, bills of exchange submitted to the banks, account statements and logbooks, cargo manifests and bills of lading of the ships.

Musthafa suggested contacting the United Overseas Bank and Standard Chartered Bank to obtain the documents and seeking Interpol assistance for the investigation.

The Presidential Commission did not have the capacity to investigate fraud on such a scale, he said.

Abdulla Haseen, spokesperson of the commission, told local media last week that evidence gathered so far “suggest links between the trade and convicts serving prison sentences.”

Haseen claimed that attempts were being made to obstruct the investigation in the Maldives, “but given that investigations are being conducted abroad there is little chance for obstruction and thus we’re making progress.”

The commission was being assisted by forensic accountancy firm Grant Thornton, British law firm Lawrence Graham LLP, a Singaporean law firm and several other international organisations, he said.


Supreme Court calls Umar Naseer not to proclaim outcomes of unresolved cases

The Supreme Court has called on former Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Umar Naseer not to publicly predict court verdicts before judgments were reached.

The Supreme Court said Naseer had proclaimed to the media that the court would rule in his favor in a suit filed by Naseer himself against Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Musthafa.

‘’Predicting the how the court might rule on a certain case obstructs the administration of justice,’’ said the Supreme Court, adding that the court had “authority to stop anything that might influence the judiciary.”

The court also warned that commenting on cases on sub judice was an offence under the Contempt of Court Act, the constitution and other relevant laws.

Such actions are considered as an offence under the ‘’Sub Judice rule’’ in other democratic countries as well, said the Supreme Court.

Last week speaking at a Z-DRP faction rally attended by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Naseer said the MDP “must be warned that they are about to lose two seats in parliament.”

‘’One will be Musthafa. You will remember there is a suit filed against him in Supreme Court, a suit I filed. The suit has almost reached a verdict, and all statements have been signed. I’m sure Musthafa will lose his seat. The next one is [alleged] child molester Adhil [MDP MP Hassan Adil],’’ Umar said during the rally.

Umar filed the suit against Mustafa in 2009, alleging that Mustafa had not been paying a decreed debt.

Article 73 [c][1] of the constitution states that ‘’a person shall be disqualified from election as, a member of the People’s Majlis, or a member of the People’s Majlis immediately becomes disqualified, if he has a decreed debt which is not being paid as provided in the judgment.’’

People’s Alliance (PA) MP Ahmed Nazim is also before the court on corruption charges. The PA is aligned the former President’s faction of the opposition.