The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on Thursday publicized their report on the corruption scandal mediated through Maldives Media and PR Corporation (MMPRC), the most shocking corruption case in history of the country.
The report revealed that 155 different individuals and companies had received funds embezzled from MMPRC through a private company called SOF Private Limited with strong links to the now jailed former vice president Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor.
The shocking list that included several high profile politicians and companies also named of top government officials as recipients of the MMPRC funds, namely Youth Minister Ahmed Mahloof and State Minister of Planning Ministry, Akram Kamaaluddin.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had promised to fight against corruption ahead of the presidential election. After taking office in November, his government has taken several measures to eradicate corruption and kleptocracy from the Maldives, including publicizing financial statements of government officials, including that of the President.
The President also urged to submit any complaints regarding acts of corruption, and established an online portal to facilitate easy submission of complaints anonymously. He also announced a "Zero Tolerance to Corruption" campaign. His first presidential address was built around the zero-tolerance policy of the government against corruption.
The revelation of Mahloof and Akram's involvement in the fund transfers set social media on fire, with the public making outraged accusations against the ministers and calling for their dismissal. In the heated moment, Minister Mahloof published a statement on the issue and attempted to insist his innocence by explaining his account of the USD 30,000 deposited into his personal account by SOF Pvt Ltd five years ago. However, in that same moment, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih chose to take a step no one had ever dared to take before, and responsibly asked his ministers to stay home until investigation into the fund transfers are concluded. Both ministers are members of his party, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
Accusations against ministers and other government officials is nothing new; with officials from previous governments also having faced such accusations. However, no president has ever taken any action on such allegations or addressed it. Therefore, President Solih's quick but responsible reaction has been garnering him positive feedback.
Following the President's decision, former Attorney General Husnu Al-Suood stated that such a strong message has not been given by any president during this century. Former Chief Justice, Ahmed Faiz also congratulated President Solih for his commendable move, stating that the president's decision is courageous and valiant.
The public also welcomed President Soloh's decision, noting that the President's actions seem to match his words; a refreshing change from previous governments. Expressing their sentiments, many said the decision has given hope that there is no place for corruption in President Solih's government.
However, Aiman Rasheed of Transparency Maldives (TM), a National Chapter of a leading global movement against corruption questioned why President Solih had not taken any action prior to the publication of the report, having already been made aware of the contents of the report beforehand.
Spokesperson of the President, Ibrahim Hood then retorted to Aiman Rasheed's question by confirming that the President only knew of the contents of the report after it was publicized on Thursday. President Solih had also questioned Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) why they had refused to disclose the report before now.
Aiman welcomed the clarification from the president's spokesperson, and stated that the fact that the president had been quick to respond to the raised questions attests to the fact that the government is open to being held accountable for their actions.
MMPRC had mediated the leasing of over 59 different tourist hotels, resorts and yacht marinas out of which 53 had been leased through an agreement with the tourism ministry.
The official audit report into the scandal, had revealed that over USD79 million had been embezzled through the state tourism promotion company.
The funds received by MMPRC were distributed through a private company called SOF Private Limited.