The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has expressed “surprise and concern” with the revelation yesterday (May 4) that documents of a corruption case against Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed were destroyed in a coffee spill at the Criminal Court.
An official from the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office told Minivan News that the Criminal Court requested resubmission of the case files three weeks ago, but has so far refused to present the allegedly damaged documents.
Justice Hameed is facing charges over the illegal transfer of credit from his state-funded mobile phone in 2010.
In a press release yesterday, the main opposition party stated that the lack of progress in cases involving Justice Hameed as well as “these incidents that occur when a case reaches court exposes quite well the state of the Maldivian judiciary.”
“As the documents of the corruption case raised by the state against Ali Hameed were destroyed after coffee was spilled on them, the party hopes that the Criminal Court will not decide that the charges cannot be proven for that reason,” the MDP’s press release stated in conclusion.
The Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) regulations stipulate that action must be taken within 48 hours of a criminal case being filed against a judge. However, the judicial oversight body told local media last month that a decision would be made once the court decides to hear the case.
The Criminal Court’s media official told Minivan News on April 13 that the court had not decided whether or not to accept the case.
Cases filed by the PG office are scrutinised in the order of submission “to make sure all the paperwork is complete and that there are no missing documents,” he said. The process normally takes “two to three days,” he added.
The case against Justice Hameed – accused of abuse of authority to benefit a third party – was sent to the PG office in July 2013 by the Anti-Corruption Commission after investigating allegations in the 2010 audit report of the Department of Judicial Administration.
Auditors found that a Supreme Court Justice transferred MVR2,223 (US$144) from his state-funded mobile phone on different occasions during 2010.
Justice Hameed is also the subject of investigations by both the police and the JSC over his alleged appearance in a series of sex tapes that emerged in May 2013.
A further video showed Hameed and a local businessman, Mohamed Saeed, discussing political influence in the judiciary.
After the secretly taped videos of Hameed engaging in sexual relations with three prostitutes in a Sri Lankan hotel room surfaced online, the JSC set up committees to investigate the case twice – in May and December 2013.
Both subcommittees unanimously recommended the JSC suspend Hameed pending an investigation.
However, in July 2013, the JSC disregarded the recommendation citing lack of evidence, while a JSC decision on the December subcommittee’s recommendation is still pending.
The MDP meanwhile stated that disgraced judges accused of corruption or blackmail should be suspended pending the outcome of a trial, noting that the practice was “regrettably” alien to the Maldivian judiciary.
Justice Hameed’s continued presence on the Supreme Court bench violated international best practices and judicial norms, the party contended.
Meanwhile, the 2010 audit also discovered that MVR13,200 (US$856) was spent out of the apex court’s budget to repair a state-owned car used by an unnamed Supreme Court Justice, later revealed in the media to be Justice Hameed.
According to the police report cited by auditors, the driver of the justice’s car was responsible for the accident, which occurred on January 23, 2011.
However, the official driver insisted the car was undamaged when he parked and left it the previous night.
Despite the findings of the audit report, in March 2011 the Supreme Court dismissed allegations of corruption reported in local media regarding phone allowances and use of court funds to repair Justice Hameed’s car.
Moreover, in September 2011, the ACC began investigating allegations that over MVR50,000 (US$3,200) of state funds was spent on plane tickets for Justice Hameed’s official visit to China in December 2010.
The complainant alleged that Hameed also visited Sri Lanka and Malaysia both before and after his trip to China to attend a conference by the International Council of Jurists.
A return ticket on a direct flight from Malé to Beijing at time cost MVR16,686 (US$1,080).
Furthermore, in May 2012, the ACC revealed that Justice Hameed was among three sitting judges illegally occupying state-owned apartments.