Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
17 June 2010. Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has confirmed he is pursuing legal action against newspaper Miadhu, after it reported that the New York Times had published a story containing allegations he embezzled US$400 million during his time in government.
Spokesman for Gayoom, Mohamed Hussain ‘Mundhu’ Shareef, confirmed that Gayoom was also building a case against Finance Minister Ali Hashim, who was quoted in the NYT article, and former Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem, upon who’s 2009 report the article was largely based, as well as the proprietor and managing editor of Miadhu.
Contrary to earlier reports, Gayoom was not seeking to sue the NYT or the author of the article, Matthew Saltmarsh, Mundhu said.
Mundhu noted that according to the NYT article, the journalist Saltmarsh had claimed he attempted to contact Gayoom for his side of the story.
Mundhu said Gayoom was more concerned with the story being reported in the local media.
The foundation of the NYT article was the former Auditor General’s report, he said, “and the Auditor General has been discredited – by the Anti-Corruption Commission, not just us. The report doesn’t stand to scrutiny.”
Miadhu’s Managing Editor Abdullah ‘Gabbe’ Latheef said he would “be glad to go to court”, and that “already three international journalist associations have offered support and want to send observers to the hearings.”
“Until a court rules that the Auditor General’s report was fabricated, the media has a right to report it – it is a public document. Until then, the media can write about it five times daily if they wish,” he said.
Latheef added that he was looking forward to the opportunity the court case would provide to open the original audit reports to public review.
“Then everyone will understand where the US$400 million has come from,” he claimed. “Some people misunderstand the government budget – when you include the private-public companies, such as STELCO, Dhiraagu and MIFCO, US$400 million is nothing.”
Latheef said he believed the local media had done a “responsible job” in reporting the NYT story, “as the NYT is the number one newspaper in the world and is a credible source.