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Thursday roundup: prosecution seeks to televise ex-vice president’s trial

The prosecution asked the criminal court on Thursday to arrange live broadcasts of former vice president Ahmed Adeeb’s trial on corruption charges.

Judge Ismail Rasheed said a decision would be made by the criminal court’s council of judges, according to media reports of Thursday’s pre-trial hearing. The judge previously decided not to televise the trial despite requests by both the prosecution and defence. Both sides asked the judge on Thursday to review his decision.

Fresh charges on seven counts related to the theft of US$90 million from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation were filed against Adeeb in late September.

The authorities signed a cooperation agreement with Adeeb in July and a separate confession agreement was signed in September, it emerged during the hearing. Separately on Thursday, the Prosecutor General’s office withdrew an appeal filed  against a High Court decision that set aside Adeeb’s conviction over the theft of US$5 million paid as a resort acquisition fee.

Adeeb is currently serving a three-month jail sentence passed over an attempt to flee the Maldives in defiance of a travel ban imposed by the Supreme Court.

In July, former president Abdulla Yameen’s trial on money laundering charges became the first to be broadcast live on television. A verdict is due on November 17. In August, Adeeb testified as a prosecution witness in Yameen’s trial, claiming to have followed the former president’s orders in siphoning off acquisition fees paid to the MMPRC to lease islands and lagoons for resort development.

Watchdog probes MVR200,000 “loan” from politician to judge

The Judicial Service Commission decided on Wednesday to probe a financial transaction of MVR200,000 (US$12,995) between former MP Alhan Fahmy and Judge Ahmed Hailam. 

The watchdog was alerted to the transaction by the police on Tuesday after the central bank flagged the money transfer on May 19 and notified police on July 25. The JSC also decided to ask the president, parliament and the National Integrity Commission to look into why the police delayed informing the judiciary’s oversight body and failed to take any action.

Judge Hailam was suspended on Tuesday for sharing a cartoon depicting the president and speaker of parliament in chains. The suspension came hours before the criminal court’s chief judge was due to deliver a verdict in former president Abdulla Yameen’s money laundering trial.

A hearing has been scheduled for November 17 after the JSC appointed Judge Ali Rasheed as acting chief judge.

Former MP Alhan Fahmy, who owns a law firm, has meanwhile confirmed the money transfer on social media and claimed it was a loan. “He is my good old friend & he borrowed it from me. Funds transferred from my account to his account. He has no case related to me or my family at criminal court to assume anything else!” he tweeted.

High Court orders arrest of cricket coach accused of sexual abuse

The High Court ordered the arrest of the national cricket team’s coach on Thursday after the Prosecutor General’s office appealed the criminal court’s refusal of an arrest warrant.

Asif Khan, a 46-year-old South African, was arrested on charges of sexual assault in early October but the criminal court released him citing police failure to bring him before a judge within 24 hours. But the court imposed a travel ban and withheld his passport.

Khan, who was hired to coach the national cricket team last year, is accused of sexually assaulting minors and adults. He was reportedly arrested from the Velana International Airport while trying to board a flight out of the country. In the wake of his sudden resignation and subsequent arrest, national team players accused the Cricket Board of the Maldives of aiding Khan’s departure. But the sports ministry assured cooperation with the police investigation.

MP Nazim quits as special advisor to JP leader

Dhagethi MP Mohamed Nazim quit as special advisor to Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim on Wednesday after new arrivals from the former ruling party joined the party’s leadership.

Nazim – a retired colonel and former defence minister who was jailed during the previous administration – told the press he was unhappy about the JP’s direction.

But former MP Ali Arif, JP’s new secretary-general, told Mihaaru that Nazim was told to resign earlier this week due to inability to fulfil his duties as he was also deputy leader of the JP’s parliamentary group. Arif suggested that the hidden reason behind Nazim’s decision was his suspicion that he might not be granted the JP presidential ticket for 2023.

“Different leaders leave and join political parties at different times. This is only natural. The best way forward is to move forward with the party and in unity instead of being unhappy and being absent because other people joined the party,” he told the newspaper.

Several prominent figures who were active in the front ranks of the former ruling party – including former lawmakers, a former home minister and former vice president – joined the JP in late August. Since then, the party has been recruiting new members and holding weekly rallies in the capital.

Nazim’s wife meanwhile hit back at Arif on Thursday. A person who clapped when Gasim and Nazim were jailed during former President Abdulla Yameen’s administration would not be sincere or loyal to the JP leader, she tweeted.

“Even if those who are interested in the 2023 presidential election are interested…isn’t it a bit too early to start the campaign?” tweeted Dr Ahmed Mausoom, a former JP deputy leader who resigned to become Maldives ambassador to Singapore.

DJA defends administrative changes

The Department of Judicial Administration has defended the appointment of top administrative officials to various courts after the chief justice accused the Supreme Court’s secretary-general of undermining his authority over staff and internal administrative matters.

Chief Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi has been at loggerheads with the Department of Judicial Administration since parliament amended the Judicial Service Commission Act to bring back the department under the watchdog. The DJA – which is tasked with management of the courts – was previously under the direct control of the Supreme Court.

In response to the chief justice’s allegations, the DJA said on Wednesday night that it appointed top officials to assist judges. It was not done to “diminish the statute of the chief judge in charge of courts and reduce the role of judges in administering justice,” the DJA said, adding that the changes were made to improve efficiency and expedite cases.

Earlier this week, the judicial watchdog launched an ethics probe over the chief justice’s alleged threats to sack the Supreme Court’s top official.

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Source URL:  Maldives Independent

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