Former president Abdullah Yameen Abdul Qayoom who was indicted in the Criminal Court of the Maldives on charges of money laundering was found guilty by the newly formed 5-judge bench on Thursday.
Yameen, who served 5 years in Office as the 5th President of the Maldives was fined with $5 million in addition to 5 years imprisonment, since his 5-member lawyers team failed to prove his innocence.
Speculation of Yameen’s “ill-fated No.5” took internet by storm as the initial court session was also first scheduled to take place on the 5th of November.
Following is a summed up time-line of Yameen’s arraigned money laundering court proceedings.
February 13th, 2019: Yameen Charged
State Prosecutors charged ex-president Yameen on grounds of transferring $1 million to his saving account set-up at the Islamic Bank of the Maldives, from a bank account of the indicted SOF infamous for its hefty connection with the corruption scandal of Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC).
February 18th, 2019: Trial Commenced
Yameen was taken to Maafushi Prisons following the orders of the Criminal Court to keep him detained in custody till the end of the trial.
Court orders followed a call for by the Prosecutor General’s Office on the grounds of supposition that Yameen might insist influence and manipulate on the witnesses for his gains.
February 19th, 2019: Appeal
The bench of defense lawyers filed an appeal at the High Court of the Maldives petitioning the Criminal Court orders which forced their client to remain in indefinite custody.
March 13th, 2019: Released on Grounds of Ill-health
Yameen was transferred to house arrest on grounds of ill-health.
The transfer came with set-rules agreed upon by both Yameen and the former First Lady herself.
March 28th, 2019: High Court Rules in Favor of Yameen
The High Court of the Maldives ruled in favor of ex-president Yameen stating the existing procedures, hence the trial of arraigned money launder was on-going at the time.
The existing procedures referred here states that a person can be detained indefinitely till the end of a trial, should only all hearings are scheduled consecutively, hence guaranteeing a verdict at a reasonable duration.
High Court ruling that released Yameen from indefinite custody in prison highlighted that no such hearings were on-going at the time, at a reasonable schedule.
April 25th, 2019: Indictment of Yameen
The Prosecutor General’s statement of arraignment against Yameen accused him to transferring $1 million from an account under the name of SOF, to his Savings account at the Islamic Bank; followed by transferring the same amount to his General Investments account at the same bank, on a later date.
It also stated that Yameen violated an agreement with the Anti-Corruption Commission of the Maldives (ACC) which liable Yameen to hold the same amount in the escrow account.
The State accused Yameen of corruption for attempted concealment of the sum and of laundering the arraigned, embezzled state funds.
- Mr. Ahmed Adeeb; Ex-VP of Yameen Administration
- Mr. Moosa Zameer; Tourism Minister of Yameen Administration
- Mr. Hassan Lutfy; President of ACC
- Mr. Muavviz Rasheed; VP of ACC
- Mr. Abdullah Ziyath; Former MD of MMPRC
- Mr. Mohamed Shareef; CEO of the Bank of Maldives (BML)
- Mr Mohamed Luwais; Minister of State for Economy and Development
- Mr. Mohamed Waseem Ismail
- Escrow Agreement
- Statement given by Yameen to the Maldives Police Service (MPS) and ACC
- Annual Financial Statement and Bank Statement of Yameen
July 21st, 2019: 5-Point Statement by Yameen
A 5-point statement was delivered at the hearing by the defiant Yameen: Unclear charge-sheet, arraigned accusation does not fall under the breaking of law as per the Constitution and the State failed to include MMA’s verdict
State failed to provide a vivid explanation for arraigned corruption
The arraigned case states an event prior to the ratification the Criminal Procedures Act, hence cannot charge the defiant client beyond the stated charter
Defiant client is being arraigned ahead of a full scale trial of the initial incident
Mr. Adeeb and Mr. Ziyath has been arraigned and convicted in Yameen Administration and therefore cannot be accepted to stand in trail as witnesses.
However, the sitting head of trial at the time refused to accept any of the given 5 statements from the defense lawyers.
August 4th, 2019: Muavviz’s Witness Statement and Yameen’s Word
Muavviz stated, it is evident that 2 banking checks, each worth USD 500,000 were transferred from SOF to Yameen’s account during October 2015. Muavviz went on to add that he had failed to attain a Bank Statement from Yameen’s account in order to verify the transfers.
Yameens’ defense substantiation included, witness Ms Azeema Adam (Governor of the Maldives Monetary Authority during Yameen Administration), a press release by MMPRC and Civil Courts’s Verdict on the case filed by MMPRC against SOF as written evidence.
August 22nd, 2019: Muavviz, Adeeb & Ziyath’s Witness Report
Adeeb: Locked horns with Yameen as he testified and admitted to assisting Yameen in corrupt deals and money laundering.
In open court Adeeb testified that he had been an accomplice to his former president in corrupt dealings and said that he knew that a sum of laundered money was transferred to his former boss’ bank account.
Adeeb went onto add that he has done illegal things on the advice of Yameen, one of which was to facilitate laundering $1 million obtained through a corrupt deal leasing out an island for tourist resort development.
He also said he has got no personal grudges against Yameen and was willing to disclose all information regardless of any punishment for his own role.
Adeeb said Yameen has contacted him even after the unfortunate ‘Finifenma’ Presidential Launch blast incident as well. Despite the FBI finding which ruled out traces of an explosive, Adeeb was arraigned and convicted on attempted assassination of a sitting president.
Ziyath noted that islands were started to lease on a non-rental basis during the year 2014. Taking the witness stand, Ziyath went on to add that the then President Yameen advised on the leasing procedures and his direct instructions came through phone calls and text messages. In this regard, Ziyath explained the infamous Vodamullah leasing scandal by saying that he handed over the cash returns from the deal to SOF since Mr. Adeeb was out of town and that Yameen was instructing him at the same time. Explaining further Ziyath said a total of $1 million was received following the lease of Vodamullah Island in Gaafu Alif Atoll, yet went on to add that he is not in light of what happened to the sum later.
September 3rd, 2019: More Witness Statements
Taking his stand in the witness box, Shareef said that did advice the then President of ACC, Hassan Lutfy about the procedures on setting up an escrow account. He went on to say that he has no direct involvement in setting up the aforesaid account, but remained as a direct contact point during cash depositions. In this regard, he said that he remained as direct contact point to the account following the instructions of then CEO of the Bank of Maldives. On the other hand, Shareef noted that he came to know about the account holder of being Yameen only after setting up the account.
Providing his statement at the witness box, Luwais said he was brought to light about the interest of Yameen in carrying forward a transaction, only through the then Legal Affairs Minister Uz Azima Shakoor. Luwais stated that he did mention about his position as an Independent Member of the Board at BML and did advice about the respective Executive members at the same. Specifically mentioning the then CEO Andrew Healey and Shareef as the executive members, Luwais stated that he did inform the aforesaid members about Yameen’s interest in carrying the transaction and gave a heads-up to a call from the President. Adding further, Luwais quoted Mr. Healey as saying that “…will take it from there” to him in response. Luwais noted that he came to light about Shareef being appointed as a focal point thereon and he was not involved in negations afterwards. Luwais also said that he had not carried any negations with non other that Uz Azima herself.
Zameer, who served as the Minister for Tourism during the Yameen administration told the court that he did transfer a sum of $1 million to the latter’s account upon his request. Giving his testimony, Zameer went on to say that the transferred sum of money were his earnings from a personal sales deal. Zameer also said that Yameen did not bother him despite a delay in the aforesaid transaction, adding that it was only Uz Azima who called him regarding the matter.
Waseem came into the witness box regarding Zameer’s testimony of a personal sales deal. According to Waseem, he did buy land from Zameer. He went onto say that the entire agreement was worth $2 million and the initial payment was made summing up to a total of $1 million and 75,000. Waseem also stated that no further negotiations were carried out in this regard.
September 25th, 2019: Defense Witness
Defense witness who was the Governor of MMA during Yameen administration refused to make a presence at the court.
It was also decided that the statement given by Lutfy will be analyzed.
The defense noted civil court verdict states transactions worth $10 million between MMPRC and SOF were usual of nature and does not mention of any illegal settlement between the aforesaid 2 parties.
October 9th, 2019: The "Docket"
The prosecuting and the defending team read out their version of summary statements or the docket of the 5 hearings held in the respective indictment.
At the end of summary statements, Criminal Court Chief Justice and the Judge presiding trial Ahmed Hailam announced that the final verdict will be passed on the 5th of November 2019.
November 5th, 2019: Judge Suspended
In a surprising move, the Criminal Court Chief Judge, Ahmed Hailam has been suspended.
The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) announced Judge Hailam’s suspension in a statement on morning itself, after beginning investigations into a Victory Day ‘message’ the judge had shared within a Viber group, which was later leaked on social media.
The post Judge Hailam shared claimed to show cartoon-based figures depicting ex-president Mohamedd Nasheed and the sitting President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih being dragged along, chained in a collar leash.
November 12th, 2019: New Bench Formulated
Five-judge bench has been appointed to oversee Yameen's money laundering trial.
The bench consists of interim Chief Judge Ali Rasheed, Judge Ahmed Shakeel, Judge Mohamed Sameer, Judge Ali Adam and Judge Hussain Faiz Rashad.
November 17th, 2019: Trial Continues
Despite the change in the suspension of formerly presiding Judge Hailam and the appointment of a 5-judge bench, it was decided that the trial will be proceeding there on without opting a start-over.
The lawyers from the defense team noted that they do not trust Judge Ali Rasheed to remain as the one leading bench and requested him to transfer the authority. However, following the deliberations within the bench, it was decided that Judge Ali Rasheed will remain as the presiding member of the bench.
Judge Ali Rasheed also announced in the same hearing that the final verdict will be passed on the 28th of November 2019.
November 28th, 2019: Yameen Guilty
The Criminal Court of the Maldives found ex-president Yameen guilty of money laundering and sentenced him to 5 years imprisonment.
Delivering the verdict, the court also slapped a fine of $5 million on Yameen on Thursday’s court session.
All this came despite the calls of the defense team asking for a postponement of the final verdict, since the next 48 hours will be falling within the weekend, hence delaying the appeal procedure.
However, following the final deliberations of the 5-judge bench, Judge Ali Rasheed passed the final verdict of 5 years imprisonment and a fine $5 million, which Yameen has to pay within a period of 6 months.