Former MP Nihaan’s passport seized till end of trials

Former MP of Villimale' Constituency Ahmed Nihan | Photo: One

Malé, Maldives – Criminal Court of Maldives has seized Former MP of Villimalé Constituency Ahmed Nihan’s passport until the trials of the six charges raised against him over the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) corruption scandal are finished or the state decides otherwise.

At today’s hearing, the state requested for Nihaan’s passport to be seized as there was a chance of him fleeing the country. The state ellaborated that it is necessary for Nihaan to be present for the hearings as well.

After the request was made by the state, the judge overseeing the trial questioned Nihaan as to whether he has any obligations to the decision, to which he answered he answered that he had non and that he had no intention of fleeing.

I absolutely have no problem with it. I am not a person that will flee the country in any of these situations.

Former MP Nihaan

Following the request from the state and as Nihaan has no obligation to the decision, the court ordered for his passport to be confiscated till the end of the trials or the court decides otherwise.

Nihaan attended today’s hearing without a lawyer, following which the judge questioned him as to whether he need additional time ti arrange a lawyer or will he proceed with the hearings. Nihaan said that he wants to continue the trials with a lawyer and that requires around 15 days to make the necessary arrangements.

However, the judge explained that the constitution allows for an initial period of ten days to be given to make the arrangements for a lawyer. He added that this period can later be extended if the accused requires any more time. The judge then allowed Nihaan a period of ten days to arrange a lawyer.

Nihaan is charged with 3 charges of accepting bribery, one charge of money laundering and two charges of intending to receive bribery.

In addition to the charges, the state is also seeking to collect the funds Nihan had earned through his participation in the graft. According to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office, Nihan was charged based on the investigative reports forwarded by Maldives Police Service, the Anti Corruption Commission and the Presidential Commission on Corruption and Asset Recovery, conducting a large-scale joint investigation into the MMPRC case.

PG Office’s statement revealed that Nihan had taken bribes from former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, while he was filling the MP position as well as chairing the Parliament’s Public Finance Committee, to purposefully neglect certain duties, or complete them as was instructed by Adeeb. The statement further noted that Nihan’s financial reports 2014 to 2019 had failed to include the funds he had collected as bribes, although the investigation had uncovered the money he had accepted from Adeeb.

Nihan is charged with three counts of accepting bribes for receiving a cheque of MVR 150,000 from the SOF account, which was where funds siphoned from unlawfully leasing atolls and lagoons through MMPRC were pooled, accepting a Rolex watch to change his vote on approving a member for the Judicial Service Commission in 2014, and receiving MVR 650,000 from Adeeb as payment for following the ex-VP’s instructions as a parliamentarian.

The state also charged Nihan with two counts of asking for bribes, over requesting for the aforementioned Rolex and demanding a payment of MVR 650,000 for following Adeeb’s instructions. Moreover, he is charged with money laundering, for purchasing a flat from Platinum Residences in Hulhumale’ by adding more funds to the cheque of MVR 150,000 he had received from the SOF account.

Prior to filing Nihan’s case at court, authorities had withheld his passport to prevent him from leaving the country in December 2020. The Presidential Commission on Asset Recovery has prioritised the investigation of 30 suspects involved in the MMPRC scandal, which caused a potential revenue loss of MVR 4 billion, marking the biggest embezzlement scandal in Maldivian history.

Reports released by investigative bodies in October 2019 list 267 individuals amongst those who benefitted from the graft. Commissioner of Police (CP) Mohamed Hameed stated that many powerful and influential individuals belonging to the current and past administrations are involved in the graft, but added that the investigation will not turn a blind eye to certain culprits.