Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem states his office will make a decision on pursuing charges in the case involving corruption in the award of a government contract to procure ventilators, and the case against Sports Minister Ahmed Mahloof next week.
In a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Shameem said that the Prosecutor General’s Office prioritizes cases sent by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
He said that given the ACC is an independent institution, the Prosecutor General’s Office is often unfamiliar with the cases submitted by the commission given lack of involvement during the investigation stage, posing challenges for the Prosecutor General’s Office.
“Unlike the police or other investigative agencies, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is a very independent, autonomous institution. So, they sometimes never discuss with us,” he said.
Shameem said that some of the cases submitted to the Prosecutor General’s Office therefore don’t meet basic legal requirements.
He said that the Prosecutor General’s Office is engaged in discussions with the ACC regarding the issue.
“The ventilator case too, was submitted after re-investigation without prior discussion. We are therefore reviewing the documents. We expect to make a decision regarding the ventilator case, and Minister Mahloof’s case early next week,” he said.
The ventilator case involves a MVR 34.50 million contract awarded by Health Ministry to Dubai-based Executors General Trading to procure 75 ventilators in 2020, which the Auditor General’s Office found to be in breach of Public Finance Regulation.
ACC, which investigated the case, requested the Prosecutor General’s Office for criminal charges against 11 government officials in connection to the case, including then-Health Minister Abdulla Ameen. However, the Prosecutor General’s Office declined charges in the case, siting insufficient evidence. The Prosecutor General’s Office later reviewed the decision, but decided not to change its earlier decision not to pursue charges.
Following backlash over the decision, the Prosecutor General’s Office issued a statement in March acknowledging concern from ACC and the general public over the decision to decline charges, and announcing the decision to review the decision and re-examine the case. ACC submited the case after re-investigation on November 1.
Executors General Trading only delivered 15 ventilators, and while Health Ministry paid MVR 30.91 million, which made for 90 percent of the total payment, to the company as an advance, without obtaining an advance guarantee or a performance guarantee.
Maldivian government served notice for termination of the contract for failure to deliver the ventilators in May.
Meanwhile, the case against Mahloof is based on ACC's findings 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.