A hearing in the appeal submitted on the court sentence imposed on Former President and opposition leader Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who was found guilty of corruption and money laundering charges over the leasing of Aarah Island in Vaavu atoll to a foreign party for resort development, has been carried out.
The hearing was held at the High Court on Thursday.
At the first hearing, the defence provided appeal points to the court, with the state prosecutors given a chance to respond to them.
Stressing that there were issues which both sides were not in conflict with, the state revealed that the only thing in the case was the dispute over the time when such an order could be issued.
According to the state, such orders are not only issued with the verdict, at the time of the verdict hearing and that according to the Criminal Procedure Code, such orders may be issued even after the verdict is passed.
Thursday’s hearing also saw the defence responding to the state’s response.
As such, Yameen’s attorney Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed stated that if such an order was issued, it would introduce a set of rules which are currently not specified in the law of the Maldives. He stressed that judges must not adopt their own method of doing things.
Afterwards, the court made some more clarifications, including questions regarding the time the order was issued.
According to the Criminal Court order, alongside the additional funds in his account, USD 3,413,230 was deposited to another account opened under Yameen’s name at the Islamic Bank. He is to have profited from this money for 36 months.
The hearing saw Yameen noting that the MVR 52 million was not the amount discussed in the trial stage. He added that a cheque of USD one million was in his Islamic Bank account and that the proceeds would be the interest provided by the bank.
He stressed that even if it was viewed for the purpose of debate, there was no way a profit of MVR 52 million would come, by keeping the cheque of USD one million in the bank.
The next hearing in the case would be the verdict hearing.
Justice Mohamed Faisal is presiding over the case at the High Court and the judges bench comprises of Justice Hassan Shafeeu and Justice Dheebanaz Fahmy.
The former president’s team made the appeal at the High Court on March 13.
The Criminal Court sentenced Yameen to seven years in prison and fined him USD five million in connection with the case, on 25 December 2022.
The Criminal Court ordered him to pay the state the USD one million he laundered and the USD two million raised over the leasing of Aarah island to a foreign party for resort development, on February 26 this year.
With this, the state prosecutors had requested the court to recover the money laundered by the former president.
The prosecution made the motion as the ex-president deposited the USD one million cheque accepted as a bribe into his HSBC account and subsequently deposited USD 1,001,409 into his Bank of Maldives (BML) account with the additional money already in the account.
Afterward, a total of USD 1,295,000 was deposited to his Islamic Bank account with the additional funds in the account.
Soon after, USD 3,413,230 was deposited to another account opened under Yameen’s name at the Islamic Bank.
The money was ordered to be recovered for the state as the Criminal Court has ruled that Yameen was guilty of laundering USD one million, adding USD 2,413,230 to the sum, and investing the money to profit.
The issue for him to pay the funds back to the state within six months, was ordered by Chief Justice Ahmed Shakeel.
During Yameen’s verdict hearing in December 2022, presiding judge Ahmed Shakeel had noted that no justification was given on why such a massive sum of money was deposited to the private account of Yameen, while he was in such a position of power.
He cited evidence showing that the money deposited to Yameen's private bank account is money laundered during the leasing of Aarah Island.
His sentence includes seven years in prison and a fine of USD five million on being found guilty of money laundering and four years behind bars on being found guilty of accepting bribes and for acts of corruption.
Despite his sentencing and him losing power in 2018 after incumbent president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won the 2018 presidential elections, the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has declared their incarcerated leader as their presidential candidate for this year’s presidential election.
Back in 2019, Yameen was sentenced to five years and fined USD five million for embezzling USD one million in state funds, which the prosecution said was acquired through the lease of resort development rights.
Following a few months into his sentencing, Yameen was transferred to house arrest in 2020 and freed by the Supreme Court months later citing a fault in an evidence document.
After his release, Yameen returned to political activities once more.
However, with his recent incarceration, his supporters have once again begun taking to the streets of the capital city, calling for his release.