Male’, Maldives – Supreme Court of the Maldives has ruled that freezing of Former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s accounts by Criminal Court was unlawful and hence, has upheld the High Courts decision.
Criminal Court ordered eight accounts which were opened under Former President Abdulla Yameen’s name to be frozen from December 13, 2018 until March 12, 2019 in connection with the money laundering case against the Former President after a USD 1 million deposit to one of his accounts at the Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB) was traced to funds embezzled from Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).
High Court had previously annulled the ruling of Criminal Court stating that the ruling did not fulfill the requirements situated in the Penal Code hence violated Article 73 of the code. The government appealed the case at Supreme Court saying that Article 72 (e) of the Penal Code which lists exceptional circumstances to be taken in to consideration to uphold the Criminal Courts judgement.
While giving out the verdict, Justice Husnu Al Suood pointed out that the police had requested to freeze the former presidents accounts in relation to the Suspicious Transaction Report (STR) sent by Maldives Monterey Authority (MMA) regarding the USD 1 million deposited to the escrow account made between Former President Yameen and Anti Corruption Commission during the investigation of MMPRC case. However police were unable to show the connection between the eight accounts of Former President Yameen in Maldives Islamic Bank and the USD 1 million deposited to the escrow account during the High Court and Supreme Court hearings.
“I could not see that the verdict was ruled according to the law” Justice Suood said while giving out the verdict.
Justice Suood said that when police request to freeze an account they need to tell the suspected amount or possible amount in the bank accounts. And if the police think that all the money in someones accounts is of suspicious nature, then they should present justifiable reasons for the order and that they should be able to tell under which legal basis that they want to get the order.
Even though the Supreme Court upheld the High Courts ruling, the courts verdict states that the proper procedure was not followed by the state when they appealed at the High Court. High Court had previously ruled that the state had filed the appeal without fulfilling the requirements of Article 72 of the Penal Code. Under this Article, an order to freeze an account can only be granted after an order to monitor the same account had been granted before, which the state had not done in this case.
The Supreme Court verdict said that under the Banking Act, if a request to freeze an account comes based on the information received by the law enforcement authorities and the prosecutor general from banks, then having an order to monitor the account is not necessary. And that the penal code does not allow to give out an order to freeze an account without sufficient evidence, hence the order to monitor is compulsory in any other situation.
“The power to directly get information from the banks and getting an order to freeze someones bank account through Article 73 of the Penal Code based on that information is possible for legal entities who have the power to investigate criminal activities and to the Prosecutor General” Justice Suood said while giving out the verdict.
Pointing these facts out, Supreme Court verdict states that the reasons on which the order to release Former President Yameen’s accounts by the High Court based were wrong. However the verdict stated that the order to release of the accounts as the police were unable to give the reason and relationship for freezing the accounts by the High Court was correct.
The bench who oversaw this case included Justice Dr. Azmiralda Zahir, Justice Uza. Aisha Shujune Muhammad while Justice Husnu Al Suood chaired the bench.
Former President Abdulla Yameen is serving a sentence of five years after he was found guilty of money laundaring charges brought up against him relating to the funds embezzled from Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC). This case has also been appealed at the High Court and is now at the stages of giving out the verdict.