Maldives seeks foreign aid to find cash linked to ex-president

Maldives former president Abdulla Yameen faces money laundering, theft and corruption charges.
Maldives former president Abdulla Yameen faces money laundering, theft and corruption charges.

COLOMBO • The Maldives government is seeking international help to find millions of dollars allegedly siphoned off by former president Abdulla Yameen, officials said yesterday.

He was charged with "grand corruption, theft and money laundering", Maldivian Democratic Party spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor tweeted on Wednesday.

Maldivian diplomats said the authorities in the Indian Ocean archipelago were in talks with foreign experts as part of a police investigation against the leader, who lost power last September.

Mr Aslam Shakir, spokesman for the Maldives embassy in Colombo said police investigations had found evidence linking Yameen and his justice minister Azima Shakoor to the theft of state funds and money laundering.

Last December, Maldivian courts froze about US$6.5 million (S$8.82 million) in accounts allegedly linked to Yameen, who suffered a shock electoral defeat to Mr Mohamed Ibrahim Solih last September.

Mr Shakir said millions of dollars could be stashed abroad and talks were under way with foreign entities to repatriate any cash found. He did not name the countries involved.

"We are getting foreign financial forensic help. We are also getting the expertise of others in connection with several cases of disappearances of people during Yameen's regime," Mr Shakir said.

An anti-establishment journalist, Mr Mohamed Rilwan, vanished in August 2014 and is widely believed to have been abducted by figures linked to Yameen's government.

Yameen, who had been in power since 2013, has also been accused of receiving close to US$1.5 million in illicit payments during his failed bid for re-election.

The country's monetary authority lodged a police complaint over alleged donations made into a private account held by Yameen in the run-up to the polls. The former strongman president, who has been questioned but not detained, has denied the allegations.

Yameen remains politically active. But since his downfall, almost all key dissidents have returned to the country and been cleared of convictions against them.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 09, 2019, with the headline 'Maldives seeks foreign aid to find cash linked to ex-president'. Print Edition | Subscribe