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Maldives police seek charges against ex-president after money laundering probe

File photo of Maldives President Abdulla Yameen. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Reuters Malé, Maldives Feb 08, 2019, 11.30 AM (IST)

Maldives police asked the prosecutor general on Thursday to charge former President Abdulla Yameen for providing false information during a probe over his alleged involvement in a deal to lease tropical islands. 

Pro-China Yameen lost a presidential election in September and the new government of his successor, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, has drawn the country closer to India, probing several infrastructure deals awarded to the Chinese.

The investigation relates to a deal to lease tropical islands for hotel development, and alleged payment of $1 million of government money through a private company, SOF Private Limited, into Yameen's personal bank account. 

Through a spokesman, Yameen denied any wrongdoing.

Police said in a statement that the investigation showed the company was used to embezzle state funds. "After the investigation, Yameen was told the money belonged to the state and should be returned. The police investigation found that Yameen did not return the money as ordered and instead he conducted financial transactions with the money in ways that would be profitable to him." 

The state-run Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in 2016 found that SOF, a company launched by former tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb, was used to launder over $92 million from the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, the country`s tourism board. 

A spokesman for Yameen said the former president "does not believe that any funds of the state owned by Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation were deposited into an account owned by Abdulla Yameen". 

Officials from SOF were not immediately available for comment.

Yameen's government suspended the license of SOF Private Limited in 2017 after Adeeb was jailed on terrorism charges. 

The ACC, which under Yameen`s government initially investigated the money transfer to the former leader`s personal account, had asked Yameen to return the money in 2018. Yameen later said he had already returned the money.

Police said in December the authorities had frozen the bank accounts of Yameen with 100 million Maldivian Rufiyaa ($6.49 million) in both US dollars and the local currency. 

During Yameen's tenure from 2013-2018, critics alleged that contracts, including a major bridge and an extension to the international airport, were given to Chinese companies at inflated prices.

Story highlights

The investigation relates to a deal to lease tropical islands for hotel development, and alleged payment of $1 million of government money through a private company, SOF Private Limited, into Yameen's personal bank account.