Criminal Court: Mahloof’s trial will begin once COVID situation improves

Sports Minister Ahmed Mahloof. (Sun Photo/Mohamed Hayyan)

The Criminal Court on Wednesday stated that the trial in the case against the Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment has been halted until the COVID-19 situation improves.

The first hearing for the trial was scheduled for January 19 but was cancelled due to a clerical matter.

When questioned by ‘Sun’ over the next hearing date, a media official from Criminal Court stated that it was decided that all will be summoned to the court physically for this trial. Hence, the hearings will be scheduled once the COVID-19 situation improves.

He was charged based on the findings of an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) into the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) graft scandal. 

ACC found that in 2014, then-parliamentarian Mahloof received USD 33,000 in funds stolen from MMPRC as a bribe from then-Vice President Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Gafoor to remain a member of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and vote for the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Bill on August 27, 2014. 

ACC found that on September 1, 2014, a USD 33,000 cheque was deposited to Mahloof’s bank account by SOF Private Limited – the company accused of laundering the stolen funds. The corruption watchdog said that though Mahloof submitted a ‘Payment Received’ slip in the name of SOF as evidence it had been a legitimate business transaction to procure US dollars, the commission had witnesses and other evidence to prove otherwise.  

However, Mahloof continued to maintain his innocence and described the case against him as a political conspiracy to remove him from office. 

In 2019, Mahloof was suspended when ACC’s report on the MMPRC scandal was first publicized. However, he was cleared two months later, following an investigation by the President’s Office. 

Later, Mahloof was placed under suspension again in June 2021, after the ACC requested corruption charges against him with the Prosecutor General’s Office.  However, the President's Office lifted the suspension in October 2021.