Crime

Ex-vice president pleads guilty over escape attempt

Former vice president Ahmed Adeeb has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges raised over a failed attempt to flee the Maldives.

Appearing at court on Tuesday, Adeeb told the judge that he has confessed and apologised in a statement made during the police investigation. He also appealed for the judge to consider his health in passing a verdict.

A verdict will be delivered in five days, the judge announced at the pre-trial hearing.

The obstruction of justice charge carries a prison sentence of four months and 24 hours. But Adeeb is expected to be handed a sentence of three months and 18 days as the law allows leniency for defendants who plead guilty.

The 37-year-old fled the Maldives in late July in defiance of a travel ban imposed by the Supreme Court. The Indian authorities held him when he arrived at the Tuticorin port as a stowaway on a tugboat and handed him over to the Maldives police at the maritime border.

Upon his return, the Supreme Court detained Adeeb pending a judgment on an appeal by the Prosecutor General’s office, which sought the detention order after challenging a High Court decision that set aside Adeeb’s conviction over the theft of US$5 million from state coffers.

Adeeb was released to house arrest in late August with an electronic tag that allows the authorities to monitor his whereabouts.

After serving three years in prison over the embezzlement scheme and an alleged plot to assassinate former president Abdulla Yameen, Adeeb was transferred to house arrest in the wake of his former mentor’s defeat in September’s presidential election.

In late May, Adeeb walked out of court an innocent man after his 33-year combined sentence on terrorism and corruption charges was wiped out by the appeal courts, which cited political influence and ordered retrials.

According to police, Adeeb escaped after he was due to appear for questioning over the theft of US$90 million from state coffers in the country’s biggest corruption scandal.

“Adeeb was cooperating with us on all cases,” a senior Maldives security official told Al Jazeera. “But maybe somewhere along the way he realised he might have to go back to jail because of the cases before the Supreme Court.”

The official suggested Adeeb might have been “scheming to abscond all along.”

On August 22, Adeeb testified as a prosecution witness in Yameen’s money laundering trial, claiming to have followed the former president’s orders in siphoning off acquisition fees paid to the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation to lease islands and lagoons for resort development.

Adeeb called himself “a victim of a tyrannical regime” and claimed to have been threatened with murder or poisoning after signing a cooperation agreement with the authorities. The beneficiaries of the stolen funds included people in high offices of the state, including ministers, judges and lawmakers, he told the court.

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Source URL:  Maldives Independent

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