Sports Minister Ahmed Mahloof – implicated in the MMPRC graft scandal – returned to work after a months-long suspension to a warm reception on Sunday - after authorities deemed the evidence against him to be insufficient to press criminal charges.
His return to work comes as Maldives hosts the SAFF Championship – the biggest football tournament in the SAARC region.
Ministry employees stood in a line in the hallway wearing red jerseys to show their support for the Maldivian national football team as Mahloof entered the office on Sunday morning, and greeted him with applause.
The employees also organized a cake cutting ceremony.
Mahloof was placed under suspension in June after the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) requested corruption charges against him with the Prosecutor General’s Office.
ACC said their investigation found that in 2014, then-parliamentarian Mahloof received USD 33,000 in funds stolen from MMPRC 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.
ACC found a USD 33,000 cheque was deposited to Mahloof’s bank account by SOF Private Limited – the company accused of laundering the stolen funds, and said that though Mahloof submitted a ‘Payment Received’ slip in the name of SOF as evidence it had been a legitimate business transaction to procure US dollars, the commission had witnesses and other evidence to prove otherwise.
However, Mahloof contained to maintain his innocence and described the case against him as a political conspiracy to remove him from office.
He expressed confidence he would win if the case when to court, and said the prosecutors would “only embarrass themselves.”
Mahloof had also filed a complaint with the President’s Office claiming authorities obtained a statement from Sri Lankan national named as a witness in the case unlawfully. The claim was investigated by the President’s Office, which found the statement was obtained in violation of standard protocol as well as the law.
Mahloof had also been suspended back in 2019, after ACC’s report on the MMPRC scandal was publicized. However, he was cleared two months later, following an investigation by the President’s Office.