Corruption Editors' Picks Governance

Maldives Asset Recovery Commission: a fake, a trap?

Commission on State Asset Recovery

The original Dhivehi article was published on Avas.mv website on 8th October 2017.

The following is a loose translation:

The period was when government corruption talk is widely discussed around. When former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb was again discussed. When Jumhooree Party Leader Qasim Ibrahim publicly severely criticised the government. During that time, President Abdulla Yameen immediately formed a presidential commission, as per presidential decree from the constitution. In order to expedite the process of recovering the stolen state assets, the Commission on State Assets Recovery was conceived.

The commission comprised of 5 members was formed to fast track and come up with big results; to collect back the pilfered money as mentioned earlier by the Auditor General’s Office (AGO) and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). To take actions to speed up the process of recovering the missing money. The commission was also granted specific powers. The commission has the power to obtain related paperwork of cases they are probing and send necessary notice. While the commission also has the power to summon people and question them, they also have the authority to check the statuses of criminal cases with other related governmental institutions like the Maldives Police Service and Prosecutor General’s Office.

‘When there are millions of money owing to the government, the commission is working hard towards recovering it. And bring solutions to the issues faced by the government institutions in recovering them. We will try our level best to work towards that,’ said Attorney General Mohamed Anil on the day the commission was established.

President meet the CSAR

President meet the Commission on State Assets Recovery

The commission was formed on 20th July, and it is now 3 months since the establishment. Those 3 months were very special for the commission, and the most toughest times too. The commission was set up for a 1 year period and it was given 1 year term to produce results. However, the questions is – will they be able to deliver those anticipated big result? Or is the presidential commission even doing any work?

To date, none of commission’s work had been shared with the media. The commission’s Chair, Home Minister Azleen Ahmed said the commission’s work will be revealed after a meeting is held and after deliberations with all members. If an action was taken against an individual or a company, that information would have been already revealed. It is unknown whether the commission had sent any notices too. What is clear is that the recovery process of the embezzled money is delayed, is stuck, and the purpose of the commission is not fulfilled.

Which prompts the question – what is the real intention of forming the commission? Soon after forming the commission, President Yameen stood behind a podium and made verbal attacks at JP Leader and prominent businessman Qasim Ibrahim. He said there was no purpose to stand behind podiums delivering ‘good news’ to citizens without paying what he owes to the government. At that time Qasim was the strongest opposition leader who was ‘safe’.

Gasim with Yameen

Gasim with President Yameen

On that day, President Yameen said that to recover the stolen state assets was one of the biggest priorities of the government. His next swipe was at ex-VP Ahmed Adeeb. He said Adeeb can leave the country for medical treatment only after reimbursing the money he owes to the state. During those days, president was always talking about money. He even said that the money Adeeb handled had been inside his own residence. Based on his such talks and the timing of commission’s establishment, the opposition claimed that the commission was a noose to wring around the necks of his political opponents.

The former supporter of the current regime Mohamed Ameeth said a commission in the name of an State Asset Recovery Commission was formed to go after Qasim. He said it is likely that it was formed to confiscate Qasim’s personal assets to the state. As from the audit report it is crystal clear who had abused and who are continuing to abuse public funds, but the government is not chasing them.

‘By undeservingly accusing prominent figures who oppose with the government’s political views, inventing cases against them, sending them to court, and trying to sentence them unlawfully, are the works done by the government by forming that commission,’ said Ameeth.

Ameeth

Ameeth criticised the commission

Ameeth said by setting up an Asset Recovery Commission to recover stolen assets, the first direction to look would be at government seniors. He claimed that the president is also amongst them. He also highlighted that the corruptions of ministers and managing directors in state-owned companies, can be seen in the audit report. He also said that he believes that without first investigating into their cases, their will not be anyone else’s case to look into.

When the presidential commission was formed, and before the commission had a chance to recover back any of the stolen money, an audit report has revealed many more funds have been stolen through corruption. It was the jaw-dropping corruption scandal at Fenaka Corporation. The state-owned company which supplies power to islands, allowed corruptive methods in purchasing the fuel, supply of power generators and other transactions, that resulted in millions of Rufiyaa in losses to Fenaka.

‘Their (government) words and actions never ever matched, especially of the president’s. He said his government will investigate corruption and take action. He admits that huge corruption scandals had happened during his term. Yet, we don’t see any investigations. When heads of the independent institutions were gifted with apartments with lowered price, even though they will pay for it, there were no one to oversee it. The audit report didn’t investigate any cases within the ministries. After making that ‘huge’ commission, no work by them is visible. That was just a ploy to threaten the opposition,’ said Ameeth.

Mohamed Nimal - former MD of Fenaka Corp

Mohamed Nimal – former MD of Fenaka Corporation

Before President Yameen took office, making a presidential commission to investigate matters of the past was ridiculed by the president himself. He even described the move by President Mohamed Nasheed to make a presidential commission to investigate cases which happened during President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s office, was just to harass him.

When things were like that, by making a similar commission, something President Yameen is not too fond of, would he able to achieve results? The real intention behind the commission’s establishment is very questionable. While some were applauding when president said corruption will be stopped and actions will be taken, the citizens are subjected to shock after shock; with revelations of huge corruption scandals that keeps surfacing. There is no action taken against anyone except Adeeb. To this government corruption stops at Adeeb. Or they say that in previous government’s corruption had taken place too and downplay it as normal thing.

After the big scandal of MMPRC, and when Fenaka Corporation’s scandal also emerged, it is evident that, even though, the government says it is their top priority to stop corruption, it is in fact not the case. And the fact that, Mohamed Nimal, who was the Managing Director of Fenaka when the corruption took place still remains a close aid, is reason to believe that corruption investigation is only carried out against those who fallout. When things are like this, there is nothing further to be said about State Asset Recovery Commission’s purpose.

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