President and VP cannot be produced as witnesses for Nihan: High Court

Former MP of Villimale' Constituency Ahmed Nihan | photo: Mohamed Muzayyin Nazim

Malé, Maldives – The High Court today upheld the Criminal Court’s decision not to produce President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih and Vice President Faisal Naseem as defense witnesses in the charges against former PPM parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan in connection with the MMPRC fraud case.

Nihan is facing four counts of bribery and money laundering for accepting money and a Rolex watch as bribes through the former vice president when he was a member of parliament.

The prosecution has moved to dismiss the evidence presented by Nihan on three counts of bribery, two counts of soliciting bribes and money laundering. Some of the evidence was ruled irrelevant to the case.

Nihan’s lawyer submitted the names of the President, Vice-President and three other members of the committee as witnesses in the Criminal Court to clarify the treatment of audit reports in the Public Accounts Committee.

The President, Vice-President and Nihan were also on the committee of the Parliament. However, the Criminal Court decided in September not to admit the witnesses as they were not relevant to the case.

The High Court today ruled that there was nothing wrong with the Criminal Court’s decision not to produce them as witnesses as the charges against Nihan do not question his usual role in the parliaments committee.

Youth Minister Ahmed Mahloof, Prosecutor General Hussain Shamim and former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed were also among the witnesses submitted on behalf of Nihan. The lower court decided to admit them as witnesses.

It is to clarify some things about the tweets made by the three. The tweets were made regarding the phone of former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, who is serving a house arrest sentence after pleading guilty to leading the MMPRC scam.

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 Accounts 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.

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.