Former Maldivian President Charged with Graft

Published: 08 February 2019

the maldivesA beach in the Maldives (Photo: Pixabay)

By Lucy Papachristou

The former president of the Maldives was charged with grand corruption, money laundering and theft on Wednesday, the Diplomat, a Tokyo-based news magazine covering the Asia-Pacific, reported.

Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom was president of the small island nation southwest of Sri Lanka, from 2013 to 2018, when he reluctantly conceded defeat to opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. 

According to one report obtained by local media, the investigation into Yameen began after “state investigative authorities filed a police report regarding Yameen’s illegal financial transactions when he was president,” which included leasing islands via the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation. 

Money earned from these transactions, the report alleges, was transferred to Yameen’s account at the Maldives Islamic Bank and subsequently laundered. His accounts were frozen last December as part of the investigation. 

This same island-leasing scheme was the subject of a months-long OCCRP investigation published just prior to the September 2018 election that narrated how Yameen and his trusted circle of senior advisers carved up their island paradise to lease to tourism developers—while allowing the tens of millions of dollars in proceeds, which should have gone to the impoverished Maldivian people, line their own pockets. 

In his inaugural address, Solih decried the previous administration’s decision to indulge in “reckless mega development projects undertaken purely for political gains.” Just last month, the new president urged his people to come forward with any information concerning instances of graft during Yameen’s tenure. 

Yameen’s island-leasing scheme, OCCRP uncovered, had a long history and openly flouted the law. 

“They have been doing for ages, and so they know there is no way for the public to hold these criminal accountable,” a former Maldivian auditor-general told OCCRP. 

“They take Maldives law as a joke,” he added.