Criminal Court has decided to throw out the bribery case against Youth and Sports Minister Ahmed Mahloof in connection with the MMPRC embezzlement.
Mahloof was accused with bribery for collecting USD 33,000 in return for voting for the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) bill in 2014 when he was acting as a legislator.
According to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Mahloof returned to the Maldives from Malaysia on August 27, 2014, to vote for the SEZ bill submitted by the Yameen administration. Furthermore, Mahloof was discovered to have collected USD 33,000 from the SOF company. The Commission also revealed that Mahloof met with former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, who is suspected of orchestrating the MMPRC scandal, after the vote on the SEZ bill.
The ACC also said that Mahloof produced a payment received slip in the name of the SOF company to establish that the USD 33,000 cheque was for foreign currency exchange reasons. However, the ACC investigation found no evidence that the money was earned through foreign currency trading.
During today’s hearing, Judge Misbah said although the transaction of USD 33,000 can be proven through financial records, there is no concrete evidence to prove the money Mahloof received was a bribe to vote in favor of the SEZ bill and the Court does not consider witness testimonies as sufficient evidence. For these reasons, the Court has decided to void all the charges lodged against Mahloof.
Moreover, the key witness in this trial, former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s testimony is not valid on the grounds of him being found guilty and serving a sentence in connection to the MMPRC embezzlement case, Judge Misbah detailed.
Judge Misbah also added that even if the Court did consider Adeeb as a trustworthy witness, it does not believe the money Mahloof received can be proved as a bribe due to Adeeb mentioning SOF’s founder Mohamed Alham Latheef (Moho) involvement in transferring the money to Mahloof and Moho clearly denied that it was a bribe in his statement to the investigation.
Judge Misbah further questioned Adeeb’s testimony due to the plea deal he agreed with the prosecution, citing that there are reasons to believe his testimony might have been manipulated to benefit the prosecution and himself since he has failed to detail the financial transactions that happened during the MMPRC embezzlement.
In regard to the text message conversation between Adeeb and Mahloof submitted by the prosecution, Judge Misbah said the conversation did not mention any relevant details about the case, such as the payment details or anything about the SEZ bill. Moreover, the conversation happened after the parliament voted on the SEZ bill. There is no further supporting evidence to prove that this conversation was about the SEZ bill or the bribe.
Furthermore, the analysis of the tweets submitted by the prosecution does not prove that any financial transaction had taken place between Adeeb and Mahloof. The tweets are not relevant to the case, Judge Misbah explained.
Judge Misbah also criticized the investigation procedure by saying the prosecution was only focused on countering the defense, instead of focusing on proving the charges lodged against Mahloof.
Judge Misbah concluded that though the Court has decided to dismiss the case, the prosecution can file an appeal if new evidence is uncovered or the charges are amended.