Former President Yameen Abdul Gayoom has claimed that if he had known the money placed into his account was related to the MMPRC scandal or was obtained illegally, he would not have participated in the transaction.
The Criminal Court convicted Yameen guilty of laundering USD 1 million from the sale of GA. Vodamula on November 28, 2019. He was sentenced to five years in prison and a USD 5 million fine.
During the Supreme Court appeal hearing on Thursday, Yameen claimed that former Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) President Hassan Luthfee had not told him that the funds deposited into his account were from the MMPRC scandal.
Money laundering legislation deems it a crime if the accused kept the funds in his account while knowing or having reasonable suspicions that the funds were obtained illegally.
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the former president transferred funds from his current account to his general investment account, which had been deposited by SOF company. And, despite being ordered to put the funds in an escrow account, he instead deposited a USD 1 million he received from former Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer, which the prosecution believed was done to conceal the truth about the funds he received. The conclusion had been reached by both the Criminal Court and the High Court.
Yameen claimed during his 20-minute defense statement that money laundering can only be considered if specific crimes are committed to get the funds. His attorneys alleged that the prosecution failed to disclose the offence Yameen committed to get the funds.
The former president went on to say that SOF is a company that engages in a variety of legitimate business transactions, and that there was no way to tell if the funds deposited into his account were obtained illegally. He further said that there is no evidence that the SOF funds were put into his account at his instruction. Instead, he claimed to have asked former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb for the USD 1 million.
He stated that it is obvious from the comments of former ACC President Hassan Luthfee and former ACC Vice President Muawwiz Rasheed that they were seeking for a missing USD 1 million from public money, not funds transferred into a specific account.
Yameen also claimed that there is no reason to believe that the money he saved in his general investment account came from the missing USD 1 million, which the bank had also utilized for transactions.
While noting that all banks in the Maldives are located in Male’ City, Yameen stated that money laundering occurs in other countries by transferring funds from one bank in one country to another bank in another country in order to conceal the truth of the funds, whereas in the Maldives, the funds can be tracked and the truth of the funds cannot be concealed.
When a judge on the panel inquired why he had moved the funds when the authorities were dubious about the reality of the funds, Yameen responded that the investment return at the time was too large to ignore. Furthermore, he claimed that there is no set rate of return on investment, and that it can only be negotiated via discussion.
Yameen stated that he contacted Luthfee over the USD 1 million, and that Luthfee did not warn him not to handle the money. And that Luthfee had not said that the funds had anything to do with the MMPRC scandal.