Aarah trial: Hearing cancelled with chief judge on leave

Former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom pictured at the 'Havaaley Watan' rally at Alimas Carnival, Male' City, on August 19, 2022. (Sun Photo/Abdulla Abeed)

Criminal Court’s chief judge Ahmed Shakeel has suddenly gone on leave, after announcing a hearing in the case against former Maldivian president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom over the sale of V. Aarah for resort development would be held Tuesday.

Yameen is on trial for money laundering and bribery in connection to the sale of the island.

He is accused of misusing his position and taking a USD 1 million bribe to facilitate the sale of Aarah to Yoosuf Naeem, a former parliamentary representative for Felidhoo constituency, and laundering the money.

The state has also charged Naeem with giving the bribe.

Both pled “not guilty” to charges.

The last hearing in the case was held last Tuesday, when the court heard testimony from a British digital forensics examiner who extracted data from phones used as evidence in the case. Concluding the hearing, Judge Shakeel announced another hearing would be held at 9:30 am Tuesday, two hear testimony from two more state witnesses.

However, the hearing was not scheduled.

Criminal Court’s spokesperson Aman Mohamed said Judge Shakeel was on leave, and the court had therefore not scheduled any hearing in cases overseen by his section.

Aman said Judge Shakeel confirmed did not begin his leave on Tuesday, but declined to disclose when he went on leave, or when he would return to office.

The court had been set to hear testimony from two of the state’s key witnesses on Tuesday; former MMPRC managing director Abdulla Ziyath and former vice president Ahmed Adeeb Abdul Gafoor - both of whom have been convicted of charges related to the MMPRC corruption and money laundering scandal.

The court had previously accepted a motion by the defense to have both Ziyath and Adeeb testify the same day.