The three judges on the Criminal Court bench which convicted former Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom of money laundering in 2019 told the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on Monday that the alleged audio recordings of them suggesting the sentence was influenced were fake.
Yameen’s trial was originally assigned to then-chief judge Ahmed Hailam, but he was suspended at the last minute and a five-judge bench was established to hear the case. The bench was composed of Judge Hussain Faiz Rashad, Judge Ali Rasheed Hussain, Judge Mohamed Sameer, Judge Ahmed Shakeel, and Judge Ali Adam.
Alleged audio recordings of conversations by three of the judges - Hussain Faiz Rashad, Ali Adam, and Mohamed Sameer - went viral on Sunday, in which they make comments suggesting the trial was influenced.
In one of the audio recordings – reportedly of Faiz – he says that the sentence against Yameen was issued by holding the judges hostage.
JSC, which has opened an investigation into the audio recordings, questioned all five judges on Monday.
According to a statement released by JSC on Monday evening, the three judges, when questioned, said that the audio recordings were fake and that they did not make such comments.
The other two judges also denied the allegations made in the audio recordings.
JSC said that it has asked the police to conduct an analysis of the viral audio recordings, and that the judges have agreed to provide voice samples for the analysis.
JSC has stated that any allegations of interference and influence over the work of judges will therefore be investigated as a special priority.
The issue of the audio recordings sparked heated exchanges at the Parliament earlier this Monday, forcing the suspension of the sitting. Opposition parliamentarians later went to the President’s Office to demand answers.
Yameen was found guilty of laundering USD 1 million from the sale of GA. Vodamula by the Criminal Court on November 28, 2019. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison and fined USD 5 million. Yameen promptly appealed the conviction with the High Court, which sided against him and ruled to uphold the original sentence on January 21, 2021.
He subsequently appealed the conviction with the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to begin appeal proceedings in September.
Yameen was serving his sentence in Maafushi Prison, but was transferred to home confinement following an outbreak of COVID-19 at the prison in April.