Maldives President Frees Ex-Officials Jailed for Corruption

Published: 17 November 2023

Ahmed-Adeeb1Former Vice President of the Maldives Ahmed Adeeb, sentenced to 20 years in jail, for corruption, but the released by the country's outgoing president Solih. (Photo: Leaked files/OCCRP Investigation)

By Zdravko Ljubas

Two former senior officials in the Maldives who were serving lengthy jail sentences for their part in a US$78 million corruption scandal that rocked the idyllic, archipelagic South Asian country are now free men.

Four days before stepping down as Maldives president, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Monday commuted the sentences of ed former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and Abdulla Ziyath, former Managing Director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Office (MMPRC), both of whom were indicted in the so-called MMPRC scandal.

The commutation freed the men from prison, but did not absolve them of guilt.

Adeeb had been sentenced to 20 years in prison and Ziyath to 32 years  for their roles in the fraud, which involved $78 million in state money being embezzled through MMPRC and other private enterprises, as well as the company selling the country’s islands and lagoons, which OCCRP revealed in its 2018 “Paradise Leased” investigation.

The commutations were fiercely opposed by Transparency Maldives.

“This commutation is a blatant betrayal of the principles that underpin a just and accountable society and undermines efforts to combat corruption and kleptocracy,” the organization said in a statement.

“This is not only an abuse of the clemency and sentence commutation powers of the President,” it stated, “but represents the epitome of the protection, impunity and privilege enjoyed by political elites who abuse their positions of power and influence.”

Although President Solih declared zero tolerance for corruption when he took office in 2018, Transparency Maldives alleged that corruption was allowed to flourish during his five-year tenure, and that those involved in corrupt activities were protected.

According to the Maldives chapter of the worldwide movement to stop corruption’s injustice, not much has been done to combat corruption in the country during the last five years with President Solih in power.

“Of the 281 individuals implicated in the MMPRC grand corruption scandal, including former and incumbent state officials, judges and parliamentarians, only three individuals have been convicted in relation to the scandal,” read Transparency’s statement.

It further stated that the Commission on Corruption and State Asset Recovery’s report documenting the loss of cash was never made public, and that no efforts were taken to reclaim the islands or receive a fair acquisition value.

According to Transparency, there have also been no meaningful steps to fix fundamental systemic weaknesses within the laws, rules, and procedures that fostered and shielded corruption.