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.