High Court concludes hearings into deputy speaker’s corruption case

The High Court has concluded appeal hearings into one of four corruption cases concerning Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim. Today’s case was lodged by the Prosecutor General (PG) after the lower court had ruled Nazim innocent.

The hearing concerned charges of fraudulently collecting funds through a company owned by Nazim to buy sound systems for a mosque. The amount alleged to have been misappropriated by the deputy speaker in all four cases is alleged to be over US$400,000.

According to local media, High Court judges presiding over the case today said that there would be no more hearings unless the court needed to clarify further information.

Newspaper Haveeru has reported that, during today’s hearing, state attorney Abdulla Rabiu told the court Nazim had abused his authority as a company owner and had also used staff as accomplices.

Rabiu said that there was no need to press charges against the staff used in the corruption, however, and that only Nazim was to be held responsible.

Nazim’s defense lawyers had previously told the court that witnesses produced against him were company staff who had also been involved in the alleged fraud, and who therefore were not acceptable to the court as witnesses.

The state lawyer today responded to these claims by saying that the witnesses not been charged with any of the cases, noting that the constitution states everyone to be innocent until found guilty by a court of law.

Case history

In February 2012, the Criminal Court dismissed four corruption charges against Nazim. The decisions came just days after the controversial transfer of power on February 7 that brought former President Dr Mohamed Waheed to office. The court had then ruled that Nazim’s “acts were not enough to criminalise him”.

Along with Deputy Speaker Nazim, MP Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem, and Abdulla Hameed – both then ministers at the now-defunct Atolls Ministry – were charged in late 2009 on multiple counts of conspiracy to defraud the ministry.

The scam – first flagged in an audit report released in early 2009 – involved paper companies allegedly set up by the defendants in order to win bids for projects worth several hundred thousand dollars, including the fraudulent purchase of harbour lights and national flags, as well as mosque sound systems.

According to the report, the documents of Malegam Tailors – the company which won the bid for the harbour project- showed that it shared the same phone number as another of Nazim’s companies, Namira.

Fast Tailors, another company that submitted a bid, also shared the phone number registered under Namira.

Anther company – Needlework Tailors – which submitted the bid, had an employee of Namira sign the documents under the title of general manager, while there were no records to prove that a fourth company named ‘Seaview Maldives Private Maldives’ existed at all, according to the audit report.

The auditors noted that the Seaview bid documents had an date error also found on Fast Tailors documents. According to the auditors, the error was sufficient to prove the same party had prepared both company’s bids.

The prosecution began in late 2009, after police uncovered evidence that implicated Hameed, Saleem, and Nazim in a number of fraudulent transactions.

At a press conference in August 2009, police exhibited numerous quotations, agreements, tender documents, receipts, bank statements, and forged cheques showing that Nazim had received over US$400,000 in the scam.

A hard disk seized during a raid of Nazim’s office in May 2009 allegedly contained copies of forged documents and bogus letterheads. Police alleged that money was channeled through the scam to Nazim, who then laundered cash through Namira Engineering and unregistered companies


Criminal Court acquits MP ‘Red Wave’ Saleem

The Criminal Court today ruled that MP ‘Red Wave’ Ahmed Saleem not guilty in the corruption case filed by the state, accusing him of paying Neyza Enterprises Private Limited 50 percent of the money given to the former atolls ministry to buy sound systems for mosques in the islands.

“Redwave” Saleem, who was the former director of finance at the Atolls Ministry, faced charges of conspiracy to defraud the former Atolls Ministry in the purchase of the mosque sound systems.

The alleged corruption was uncovered in the audit report of the now defunct Atolls Ministry, released in 2009.

The court ruled that according to witnesses and statements, Saleem was not the person assigned to make announcements for bids.

The court also ruled that none of the statements or witnesses produced to the court proved that Saleem has abused his position to defraud the Atolls Ministry.

Following a police investigation requested by the Presidential Commission, the Prosecutor General’s Office had charged Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim, MP Saleem and former Atolls Minister Abdulla Hameed with three counts of conspiracy to defraud, abuse of power and violation of the state finance and asset regulations.

According to newspaper ‘Sun’, witnesses told the court that Saleem was not the person who was announcing for bids. The person who handled that duty, witnesses said, was Naseema Moosa, who was dead.

Last week the Criminal Court dropped all charges against Nazim, an MP in the party headed by Gayoom’s half-brother, Abdulla Yameen.

The dismissed the three remaining counts of fraud against Nazim, stating that his “acts were not enough to criminalise him”.

The Supreme Court has disqualified former ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Musthafa over a decreed debt which the court concluded makes him constitutionally ineligible to remain in the seat.

MDP MP Mohamed Musthafa was also that week disqualified from his seat by the Supreme Court which upheld a verdict concerning a decreed debt, which the court concluded made him constitutionally ineligible to remain in the seat.

Two judges, including the Chief of Justice Ahmed Faiz, concluded that it cannot be ruled Musthafa had a decreed debt as the loan had been taken on the name of Musthafa’s company Seafood and Trade International and added that in August 1997 the lower court had ordered the “company” to repay the loan.

Earlier this week the Supreme Court upheld criminal charges against Independent MP for Kaashidhoo Ismail Abdul Hameed, who has a record of voting alongside the MDP, and also stripped him from his seat.

The Criminal Court had last year sentenced the Independent MP to one and a half years banishment for corruption. The charges were upheld by the High Court in November.

The MDP meanwhile today accused the Dr Waheed’s government of using the courts to “purge” parliament of MDP MPs and MDP-leaning MPs, “in order to secure a controlling majority.

“While in government, MDP consistently maintained that key parts of the judiciary are in the hands of the supporters of former President Gayoom. Now we are seeing the truth of that claim. Dr Waheed’s regime is using the courts to settle old scores, to reduce MDP’s parliamentary majority and to wipe the slate clean for government supporters,” claimed MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.