Won’t accept Yameen’s sentence, appeal will be won: Lawyers

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and member of his legal team, former Vice President Mohamed Jameel Ahmed | Photo: Edition

Malé, Maldives – Former President Abdullah Yameen’s lawyers have decided to appeal against the Criminal Court’s decision to sentence him to 11 years in jail and fine him USD 5 million over money laundering and bribery in connection to V. Aarah.

Yameen was sentenced to four years in prison for accepting a bribe. He was convicted of money laundering and sentenced to seven years in prison and fined USD 5 million to be paid within six months. 

As long as the conviction of the opposition leader for accepting and laundering USD 1 million in bribes by leasing out V. Aarah island remains in force, he will lose his chance to contest the next presidential election.

Speaking to reporters after the verdict, former Vice President Dr. Mohammed Jameel Ahmed, who heads Yameen’s legal team, said they do not accept the verdict of the Criminal Court.

“The sentence handed down to Yameen is unacceptable. It is an illegal sentence handed down in violation of the Constitution, the Criminal Procedure Act and the rules prescribed under the Act,” Jameel said.

Jameel’s reasoning for not accepting the verdict was that the prosecution had not produced any evidence to prove the two charges against him.

“The defense has presented strong documentary evidence and oral evidence to dislodge the charges. During the trial, the prosecution has not presented a single piece of evidence on the charges of accepting bribes and money laundering.” Jameel said.

He added that he would appeal the verdict without delay and was confident that they will win the case in Maldives High Court.

Dr Jameel also added that there is no doubt that the prosecution did not presented a single piece of evidence to prove the charges against President Yameen.

The charges have now closed Yameen’s chances of contesting next year’s presidential election.

According to the article, a person who has been convicted of a criminal offense and sentenced to more than one year must have served three years since the sentence was completed or the sentence imposed by the conviction was pardoned.

Prosecution charged former President Yameen with money laundering and acceptance of a bribe of USD 1 million from former MP of Felidhoo Constituency Yusuf Naeem. The charges for both parties are as follows.

  • Former President Yameen Abdul Gayyoom – Money laundering under Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Act, 2014 (Act No. 10 of 2014) and acceptance of a bribe under Chapter 510(a)(d) of the Maldives Penal Code (Law No. 6/2014)
  • Former MP of Felidhoo Constituency Yusuf Naeem – Bribery under Chapter 510(b)(d) of the Maldives Penal Code (Law No. 6/2014)

Yousuf Naeem was also sentenced to three years in jail after being convicted of bribery.

The prosecutor’s office had alleged that Yameen and Yusuf Naeem had laundered USD 1 million in bribes using the then President’s position in the lease transaction to develop a tourist resort through the Ministry of Tourism and the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation.

The Prosecution had previously told that on September 15, 2015 Yusuf Naeem handed over a check of USD 1 million which was deposited to ex President Yameen’s HSBC account on the following day, 16 September 2015.

President Yameen allegedly transferred USD 1,001,409 from the HSBC account to his BML account on February 22, 2016. USD 1,295,000 was then transferred to an MIB account from the BML account almost a year later on February 21, 2017.

A month later on March 14, 2017 USD 3,413,230 was then transferred to a general investment account at the same bank, MIB, for 36 months.

While this is the second case against President Yameen, in November 2019, the Criminal Court sentenced that Yameen was guilty of laundering USD 1 million of the government through MMPRC by leasing GA. Vodamula. While a verdict on that case was appealed at the High Court, on January 21, High Court upheld the verdict of the Criminal Court.

However Former President Yameen was acquitted of the Criminal Court judgement unanimously by three justices of the Supreme Court on November 30, 2021.

The Supreme Court’s decision to acquit hinged on two main factors, the origin of the USD 1 million and the testimonies of two key witnesses. 

  • While the prosecutors argues that the USD 1 million was embezzled from the state, a discrepancy in the cheque number used to deposit the money, numbers are different in the bank statement and the deposit slip from the money laundering mediatory company SOF was different, caused contradictions to the origin of the cheque. The Supreme Court judges stated that it is not proven beyond doubt that the USD 1 million belonged to the state. 
  • Statements by key witnesses Ahmed Adeeb (bro) and Abdulla Ziyath, who were noted by the defense as hostile towards former President Yameen but accepted by the Criminal Court, were disregarded by the Supreme Court on the premise that they were untrustworthy under Islamic Shariah since they has confessed to a crime. 

The Supreme Court expressed alarm over the prosecution’s decision to not prosecute SOF for embezzling approximately MVR 3.4 billion. A non-prosecution agreement was made by the state with SOF during former PG Aishath Bisham’s term that the current Prosecutor General’s Office has upheld. 

The PGO also has another ongoing case against the Former President of accepting bribes worth MVR 117,000 during the lease of R. Fuggiri for the development of a tourist resort.