High Court annuls arrest warrant, orders Yameen’s release

Former Maldivian President and Leader of PPM, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom speaks during a press conference at the PPM headquarters on February 1, 2019. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

High Court has squashed the arrest warrant issued by Criminal Court against former Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and ordered his immediate release.

High Court issued its verdict in the appeal filed by Yameen over his arrest this Thursday afternoon.

Yameen was charged with money laundering and issuing false statements to State institutions following Maldives Police Service’s investigation into the USD 1 million - believed to be embezzled funds in the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) scam – deposited to his account at the Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB) by SOF Private Limited.

He was ordered to jail pending the outcome of trial by the Criminal Court on February 18, based on a police intelligence report which was submitted as evidenceof witness tampering.

He was initially kept detained at the Special Protection Unit of the Maafushi Prison, but was transferred to temporary conditional house arrest on March 13 at the instructions of his doctor.

The appeal was previously presided over by Judge Hussain Shaheed, Judge Abdul Rauf Ibrahim and Judge Hassan Ali. However, Judge Rauf was replaced by Chief Judge of High Court, Judge Shujau Usman at this Thursday’s hearing.

The arrest warrant issued against Yameen reads “on suspicion of witness tampering in connection with the money laundering case and embezzlement of the large amount of money owed to the State through MMPRC under investigation by the police.”

Yameen’s attorney argued that the MMPRC embezzlement case hasn’t been submitted to the court, and that issuance of a court order based on an unrelated case violated Article 49 of the Maldivian Constitution.

The High Court concurred with the argument, and said that Criminal Court issued the arrest warrant with reference to a case which wasn’t under review by the court.

It also noted that both the State and the Maldives Police Service had admitted to lack of evidence Yameen tampered with witnesses specifically in the money laundering case.

The High Court pointed out that the Criminal Court issued the arrest warrant in reference to Article 60 (b) (i) of the Criminal Procedure Code and Article 13 (a) (ii) of the Judicial Procedure Code; under which courts can issue arrest warrants for only a maximum of 30 days. It said the 30 day period therefore ended on March 18 at 3:54 pm.

The court, with the unanimous consensus of all three judges, ruled that there was no sufficient grounds to keep Yameen detained any further and ordered his immediate release.

Though Yameen has formally been charged only with money laundering, Maldives Police Service is also investigating him for possible involvement in the MMPRC embezzlement case itself.