File photo of Abdulla Yameen. Photograph:( AFP )
The outgoing strongman president of the Maldives, Abdulla Yameen, faced allegations Tuesday that he received nearly $1.5 million in illicit payments just before his surprise election defeat last month.
The allegations that two cash deposits were made into a private account in Yameen's name came to light after local media reported that the Maldivian Monetary Authority (MMA) had lodged a police complaint.
Yameen's spokesman Ibrahim Muaz Ali denied any wrongdoing, saying that Yameen maintained a separate account to receive election campaign funding. He did not confirm or deny the amount of any deposits received.
Muaz said the governor of the MMA had assured the president that there was no wrongdoing and that the bank's Financial Intelligence Unit had withdrawn their complaint to the police.
"President Yameen assures the people that his campaign had been conducted in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations," Muaz said, adding that no campaign funds had been received from abroad.
Yameen relied heavily on China for political and financial support in the nation of 340,000 Sunni Muslims, triggering concern in India, which has long been influential in the Maldivian politics and the economy.
Beijing has been competing with New Delhi for influence in the region.
In neighbouring Sri Lanka, police are investigating allegations that former president Mahinda Rajapakse received millions of dollars in campaign funds from a Chinese state owned company in 2015.
Just before the Maldives' September 23 election, a corruption watchdog alleged that Yameen accepted lavish gifts from a billionaire developer who was later leased two islands in the paradise archipelago without bidding for them.
Yameen, whose five-year tenure was marked by the jailing of all his key rivals, has denied any involvement in the alleged island-leasing scam, which first came to light in a 2016 investigation by the Al Jazeera television channel.
The main opposition candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who defeated Yameen in last month’s election, has asked him to ensure a smooth transition when he is due to take over on November 17.