High Court has ordered State authorities to unfreeze the bank accounts of former Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
Authorities were granted an order to freeze Yameen’s bank accounts by the Criminal Court in connection with the money laundering case against the former President, after a USD 1 million deposit to one of his accounts at the Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB) was traced to funds embezzled from Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).
The USD 1 million was deposited to his account in two installments of USD 500,000 from SOF Private Limited – the company implicated in laundering the embezzled funds from MMPRC.
The High Court issued its verdict following the appeal filed on behalf of Yameen over the freeze on his bank accounts this Sunday afternoon.
The court ruled that the order violated Article 72 and Article 73 of the Penal Code and annulled the order.
The court order was issued to freeze eight accounts under Yameen’s name at the MIB effective from December 13, 2018 to March 12, 2019.
The request for the court order was made by Maldives Police Service which cited opportunity for financial gain and opportunity for loss of State funds unless the accounts were frozen.
MPS submitted a letter from Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) and bank statements of the eight accounts when it made the request.
STATE ARGUES EXISTENSE EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCE
Yameen filed the appeal at the High Court arguing violation of Article 73 of the Penal Code and Article 24 of the Constitution.
Yameen’s attorney argued that Article 73 of the Penal Code clearly stated that a court order for freeze of funds in a bank account may only be requested under Article 72 (a) of the Penal Code upon identification of a major criminal activity following an investigation under an order to monitor a bank account.
He argued the court order issued by Criminal Court therefore violated Article 73 of the Penal Code.
The State counter-argued with Article 72 (e) of the Penal Code, which lists exceptional circumstances Article 72 (a) of the Penal Code may be bypassed.
The section authorizes State authorities will making requests for a freeze on bank accounts if a major criminal activity is identified based on a written inquiry made MPS to a bank.
FAILURE TO FOLLOW PROCEDURE FOR APPLICATION OF EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCE
The High Court noted that the State failed to request a court order for monitoring as required under Article 72 (a) of the Penal Code despite sufficient time between receiving the letter from MMA and the request for a freeze on bank accounts.
The court said that the State, in failing to do so, had failed to follow proper procedure. It also noted that application of a court order for a freeze on bank accounts under exceptional circumstances required the submission of a letter from a criminal investigative authority or the Prosecutor General’s Office – which the State failed to do.
“CONTENT OF MMA’S LETTER BEAR NO RELEVANCE TO BANK STATEMENTS”
The High Court also pointed out that the letter sent by MMA to the MPS on November 5, 2018 which was submitted as evidence to the Criminal Court included information regarding an transfer of USD 1 million from one of Yameen’s accounts at the Bank of Maldives (BML) to an escrow account opened by Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
The court noted that the MPS failed to provide evidence or testimony proving any connection between the information on MMA’s letter to the eight MIB accounts.
The Criminal Court order for the freeze on Yameen’s bank accounts was made with the unanimous consensus of all three judges who presided over the case.