The Criminal Court on Sunday allowed former Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC)’s chief Abdulla Ziyath to respond to the charges filed against him.
Ziyath has 30 counts of corruption and embezzlement levied against him for his involvement in the 2015 MMPRC corruption scandal, the largest case of embezzlement to shock the nation which saw MVR 1.2 billion acquired by MMPRC through illicit island leases for resort development.
The prosecution revealed that it will be pursuing the fraudulent lease of each island separately, which is why Ziyath has 30 collective charges against him. This is the first time in the Maldives’ history that a single person has had these many charges levied against them at once.
Whilst the preliminary hearings commenced on Sunday as scheduled, the details of the exact amount that was embezzled or the islands that were leased were not divulged as the official hearings have not yet begun.
During Sunday’s hearing, Ziyath’s lawyer Mohamed Yameen asked the court for extra time to prepare a response due to the hoard of charges against his client. Judge Ali Adam complied and gave till October 15 to respond.
Ziyath is already serving an eight-year sentence after being convicted of embezzling USD 5 million that was owed to the state after leasing Maabinhuraa island in Lhaviyani atoll for development during his tenure as MMPRC’s chief.
Former Vice President Ahmed Adheeb was also widely implicated in the MMPRC corruption scandal. On Al Jazeera’s “Stealing Paradise” expose, an aide of the now jailed vice president had claimed that much of the cash that was stolen via MMPRC went directly to President Abdulla Yameen’s residence.
President Yameen had remained mute on the allegations until last month when he said that the “money that entered [my] house was not lawful” at a ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) rally.
Acknowledging for the first time the allegations made in Al-Jazeera’s expose, President Yameen declared, “That money did not enter box by box into [my house] alone. Ahmed Adheeb was the one who expended for the people we wanted to elect, by any means, for the parliament. Thus, the money that entered my house was not lawful without a doubt. If the parliament members I mentioned can believe this, I urge them to resign from their posts.”
Meanwhile, Adheeb, who is already serving a sentence of 33 years for orchestrating an assassination attempt on the incumbent president, has over nine other allegations against him, which includes ‘abuse of power for illegitimate private gains’. The police late on Friday night had searched his former residence at the Rehendhi Apartments in capital Male for evidence for a bribery conviction.
Adheeb maintains that he is being “framed” by the government and claimed that he was arrested on trumped-up charges. Whilst Ziyath has not officially commented on his case, the opposition has dubbed Adheeb and Ziyath as “scapegoats” for President Yameen’s illicit activities.
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