ACC forwards cases against senior officials of Thilafushi Corporation for prosecution

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has concluded its investigation into alleged corruption committed by the Thilafushi Corporation Ltd (TCL) in awarding a land reclamation project to Heavy Load Maldives – a family business of ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairman ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik – and sent cases against three senior TCL officials for prosecution.

The three members of the bid evaluation committee facing corruption charges are Managing Director Mohamed Wafir, Director Mohamed Adhil Rasheed and former Acting Manager Ibrahim Riyaz.

A statement put out by the ACC yesterday noted that the US$21 million project was not awarded with the advice of the TCL board and in violation of the government-owned company’s operating procedures.

The ACC investigation found that TCL provided US$3 million to Heavy Load as a mobilisation payment without the approval of either the engineer or the board’s majority.

Moreover, TCL accepted three vessels worth US$1.8 million as advance payment security without a valuation of the vessels. The security document was signed by a director of Heavy Load Maldives while a board resolution from the company authorising the director to sell or mortgage assets was not submitted.

Based on its finding, the ACC concluded that the three evaluation committee members tried to “illegally benefit a particular party” in the awarding of the project.

In addition, the ACC found that TCL was in the process of revising the project and replacing its engineer, Abdulla Ziyad, as the contractor appeared unlikely to complete the project on time.

The dredging was part of TCL’s development of a new port catering to 15,000 ton cargo ships and container terminal, on 3.8 million square foot of land. The industrial zone development project is partly intended to free up land currently occupied by the port in Male’, one of the most densely populated cities in the world at over 100,000 people per square kilometre.

Meanwhile, in a second statement put out today, the ACC revealed that it had also requested the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) to prosecute TCL’s Corporate and Legal Affairs Manager Mohamed Latheef as he had failed to provide a copy of a board resolution approving the decision to sue the ACC after it ordered the project to be halted.

Latheef had assured the ACC on August 21 that he would send a copy to the commission, the statement noted.

TCL sued the ACC on April 21 claiming the commission’s order to stop work on the US$21 million Thilafushi reclamation project was not legally justifiable.

In April, TCL lawyer Mazlan Rasheed argued at the Civil Court that the ACC did not have legal authority to order the government corporation to scrap the project, which was was both “irresponsible” and “unlawful” as the order was made before the commission completed its investigation process.

TCL therefore requested that the Civil Court declare the ACC order unlawful, he said.

ACC lawyer Areef Ahmed Naseer however denied the claims, insisting that the commission acted within legal bounds.

Heavy Load Maldives was awarded the US$21 million project on September 30 last year, and inaugurated the project on February 4, 2011.

MP Moosa Manik told Minivan News in February this year that the commission’s order was politically motivated, claiming that “there is a part of the ACC that is not free and fair.”

“PA’s Deputy Leader [Ahmed] Nazim is very close with one of the commission members, [Abdulla] Hilmy, which needs closer investigation,” Moosa claimed. “I am a strong part of this government and I think this is a political trick. I haven’t even been into the Heavy Load office in one and a half months because of my campaigning [in the local council elections]. It is run by my family, my children.”

In an audio clip of a leaked phone call between Nazim and MP Abdulla Yameen that emerged in July 2010, the Deputy Speaker is heard to say that he has “given warnings” to ACC members to issue a press release, presumably regarding dismissed Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem.