The New York Times
12 June 2010. A report in major US newspaper The New York Times has claimed that the Maldives government is seeking to seize US$400 million allegedly stolen by the former government, assisted in its recovery efforts by the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR).
In the Maldives, a number of politically-connected figures, including former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, had now become the targets of ”increasingly coordinated efforts to repatriate misappropriated funds,” the NYT report said.
Representatives of the former government have steadfastly denied the existence of stolen funds. Gayoom’s assistant and former chief government spokesperson Mohamed Hussain Shareef (Mundhu) told Minivan News in December that ”there is no evidence to link Gayoom to corruption”, and urged accusers “to show us the evidence.”
Friday’s report in the NYT described the Auditor General’s report, published in 2009, as “a guidebook on self-enrichment.”
“An estimated US$9.5 million was spent buying and delivering a luxury yacht from Germany for the president; $17 million was spent on renovations of the presidential palace and family houses. Mr Gayoom built a saltwater swimming pool, a badminton court and a gymnasium, and he bought 11 speed boats and at least 55 cars — including the country’s only Mercedes-Benz,” the NYT noted.
The Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem was dismissed in late March by an opposition-controlled parliament (Majlis) following a no-confidence motion and allegations of corruption.
Naeem, who was himself appointed by the former president and a then-ruling party majority Majlis, claimed at the time that the charges were an attempt to discredit his office and prevent him from reclaiming the government’s money stored in overseas bank accounts.
“A lot of the government’s money was taken through corrupt [means] and saved in the banks of England, Switzerland, Singapore and Malaysia,” Naeem said in March, during his first press conference in eight months.
The Maldives government has meanwhile “begun the paper chase”, Friday’s NYT report claimed, “but it lacks the resources to unravel a complex trail that it assumes runs through the British Channel Islands, Singapore and Malaysia.”
Hashim said the government now needed the money to offset a decline in tourism and plug the country’s 34 percent budget deficit.
“What we are asking the World Bank is, help us get this back,” Hashim told the NYT. “Then we won’t need to have that much foreign aid.”