Minister Mahloof alleges political conspiracy, says being treated ‘like a sacrificial lamb’

Sports Minister Ahmed Mahloof. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Sports Minister Ahmed Mahloof said on Thursday that he has always been treated like a sacrificial lamb in the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) embezzlement case.

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) requested the Prosecutor General’s Office for charges against Mahloof over USD 33,000 in stolen funds deposit to his bank account on Wednesday.

He has been placed under suspension pending the decision of Prosecutor General’s Office regarding pressing charges.

In a statement via his social media accounts on Thursday evening, Mahloof said that he was being treated unfairly, and that the case against him was orchestrated by politicians.

“It has been personal against me in the MMPRC case from the very beginning. I am being treated like a sacrificial lamb in politics. The top leaders are well aware this is being orchestrated by some politicians. The sole purpose is to remove me from office,” he said.

Mahloof said that though he was being treated in such a manner to force him out of office, “they” didn’t realize he didn’t wish to “latch on” to his post.

ACC said their investigation found the USD 33,000 was sent to Mahloof, when he had been serving as a member of the 18th parliamentary assembly, as a bribe from then-Vice President Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Gafoor to remain a member of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and vote for the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Bill.

They said that the date of messages between Mahloof and Adeeb correspond with the date of the deposit of the cheque.

“The allegation itself is wrong. The allegation is based on the fact that I voted for the SEZ Bill. But I was a PPM parliamentarian at the time. I voted in accordance with the three-line whip,” said Mahloof.

Sharing a screenshot of a news report which describes the mandate of Corruption and Asset Recovery Commission, Mahloof said the ACC does not have the legal authority to request charges in the case.

“Its clear from the presidential decree for the establishment of Asset Recovery Commission and the Presidential Commissions Act. The cases against everyone charged before this were sent by the commission,” he said.

Mahloof had maintained that the deposit was a legitimate business transaction to procure US dollars, when the deposit first became public knowledge, back in 2019.

However, ACC said that witnesses and other evidence proof it had not been a legitimate business transaction.

Mahloof said that statements and other evidence claimed by ACC were obtained illegally, and will not hold up in court.

“I do not wish to go into detail regarding this at this time,” he said.

Mahloof said last May that he will tender his immediate resignation if he is charged in the MMPRC case.

He said this Thursday that he would not remain Sports Minister “for a day longer as I said before, if the commission, police, PG, and ACC were conducting the case in accordance with laws and regulations and their own policies and with discrimination”.

“You are welcome to investigate me. But it should be done within the confines of the law and without discrimination. Was my name the only one the commission was able to find on the list of 300 names compiled after excluding some of the names through political influence even after three years?” said Mahloof.

Mahloof said that it would be wrong to think the people would consider the MMPRC case closed even he is made a sacrificial lamb.

“I am tired. I cannot remain silent forever,” he said.