Opposition brushes off accusations against ex-Islamic Minister as 'baseless'

The opposition alliance on Monday claimed that the recent graft charges filed against former Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Ahmed Ziyad Bagir, concerning the alleged corruption surrounding the Zikra Mosque project, were baseless.
The coalition of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and People's National Congress (PNC) declared that the accusations against Dr Ziyad were slanderous and part of a 'drama' played out by the current administration against close associates of former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
Blasting the decision, they claimed that President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's administration was attempting to distract the public from the opposition's criticism regarding the growing bilateral relations between Maldives and India.
The opposition has raised concerns over the incumbent administration "selling off Maldives" and called to abolish any foreign military presence within the country -- allegations that the authorities have denied.
According to the Prosecutor General's Office, Dr Ziyad was indicted over corruption concerning the previous administration's agreement with SJ Construction to develop Zikra Mosque.
He is charged with misuse of official authority under Section 513 (b) of the Penal Code, which states, "A person commits an offence if he: (1) uses or influences official authority in his capacity as a public official, (2) for the purpose of obtaining a benefit for himself or for another person to which he is not entitled".
Detailing the charges levied against the former Islamic Minister on Sunday, the PG Office stated that the project agreement signed by the former minister, incurred losses to the state with MVR 30 million paid as equity to SJ Construction, facilitating the company to gain illicit benefits from the deal.
SJ Construction was awarded the MVR 130 million project to develop the 10-storey 'Darul Zikra' mosque on a Contractor Finance model on July 9, 2018. The previous government paid MVR 30 million to the company in advance as equity.
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