The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, overturned the five-year prison term against former Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom for money laundering.
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 five 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 back in January.
He subsequently appealed the conviction with the Supreme Court, which began appeal proceedings in September.
The case was heard by a three-member bench, composed of Justice Mahaz Ali Zahir – who headed the bench, and Justice Dr. Azmiralda Zahir and Justice Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim.
The court concluded hearings in October, and issued its ruling on Tuesday afternoon.
The court reached its verdict with the unanimous consensus of all three justices.
While many of the points on appeal presented by Yameen were rejected, the court found some of the key points held merit, including the discrepancy in the number on the cheque used to deposit the money to Yameen’s account.
The numbers were different on the bank statement and the deposit slip from SOF Private Limited – the company used to launder money stolen from Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).
THE ORIGIN OF THE USD 1 MILLION
The court said that while it overturned the money laundering conviction, the court found it important to uncover the truth behind the USD 1 million deposited to Yameen’s account.
“It is unclear how the USD 1 million was deposited to Yameen’s account. The money was deposited by a company by the name of SOF,” said Justice Mahaz.
He said that the state failed to conduct a thorough investigation on the money, and also noted the state failed to take testimony of the two people involved in depositing the money to Yameen’s account.
Noting that Yameen invested and profited from the money deposited by SOF, Mahaz said it shouldn’t have happened.
“There were questions over the money’s origin when it was invested,” he said.
He said that Yameen, in investing the money while state agencies had been investigating the case, showed blatant disregard for investigative agencies, the responsibilities of a president, and put personal gain over upholding the rule of law.
“In light of these circumstances, I find there’s still room to look into the truth of the USD 1 million deposited to Abdulla Yameen’s account in this case. And if believe that if the investigations uncover the money should have gone to the state, the state reserves the right to recover the money, and any profits that may have been made by investing that money,” he said.
The court found evidence to prove the charge of money laundering against Yameen was weighed in violation of the law, and overturned the conviction.