Dhiggaru Constituency MP Ahmed Faris Maumoon was charged on attempted bribery. State alleged that MP Faris had bribed a fellow Parliamentarian to sign the no confidence motion on Parliament Speaker Abdullah Maseeh. The charges say that MP Faris had attempted to bribe Isdhoo Constituency MP Ahmed Rasheed Ibrahim, commonly known as Qaaree Rasheed. It also says that Ahmed Shafiu, an activist of opposition aligned Jumhooree Party (JP), delivered the bribe to MP Rasheed, on behalf of MP Faris.
MP Rasheed was one of the 45 signatories to the no confidence motion on Speaker Maseeh. Mere hours after the motion was submitted to the Parliament on July 3rd, MPs with the ruling Yameen faction of Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) said MP Rasheed’s signature on the motion was a fake one. The Parliamentarian then said he had heard of rumors that his signature was on the motion and denied having had signed the motion.
Following this, MP Rasheed had filed the case in Maldives Police Service (MPS). However, the charges filed concerned attempted bribery, rather than that of a forged signature.
Shafiu was arrested on July 4th. He was released five days later by Criminal Court on July 9th, citing that there was no sufficient evidence to hold him. The State filed the case for appeal in High Court, which had upheld the lower court’s verdict. High Court also decreed the evidence on Shafiu did not support a bribery charge on him.
So far, Shafiu had not revealed the details of what had transpired since July 4th. The exclusive interview he had granted to RaajjeTV only raised more questions.
When MP Rasheed filed the case on July 3rd in MPS headquarters of Shaheed Hussain Adam building, he had sent a series of text messages to Shafiu. The screenshots of messages on Shafiu’s phone show that MP Rasheed had appealed to Shafiu to give a certain statement. The screenshots were proven as authentic from the forensic report MPS conducted on Shafiu’s phone. The very screenshots are included in the forensic report.
‘If you’re taken to Police, say you gave MVR 300,000. Only then Ahmedbe, will escape unscathed. I’m at Police,’ reads one frantic message sent by MP Rasheed to Shafiu.
‘Please save Ahmedbe,’ reads the second message.
‘Shafiu, I’m begging you, give your statement like I’ve told you. Will fix a job for you that pays MVR 35,000 [US$2,270 per month]. Do this for me. I’ll be safe only if you do this for me. Save me,’ read another message.
‘If you don’t give testimony against F [MP Faris], Shafiu remember this, if you’re jailed you’ll regret this. This is your last chance. If you don’t give a reply by Monday, I will not be responsible for any additional damages you suffer,’ another message by MP Rasheed reads.
Shafiu was arrested around 1am on July 4th. Officers of MPS informed that a member of his family wished to meet him, while he was detained MPS headquarters. Police carried out their investigation on Shafiu with this individual present. The individual was Isdhoo Constituency MP Ahmed Rasheed Ibrahim.
‘I was detained in Maldives Police Service. Then I was told a family member was there, wanted to meet me. That person was Isdhoo Constituency MP Ahmed Rasheed. He came 15 minutes later and talked to me in the presence of six Police Officers, without my lawyer. They took video footage of parts of the interrogation,’ Shafiu said.
Police conducted investigation for around three hours, without Shafiu’s lawyer. Shafiu’s lawyer learnt of his whereabouts around 4.30am.
‘My lawyer was informed of my arrest around 4.30am. Only after that my lawyer knew where I was. The two, three hours before that six Police officers and Qaaree [MP Rasheed] talked to me, on various topics. I want to share this with media,’ Shafiu said.
Shafiu is a close associate of MP Rasheed. According to Shafiu, he sees the Parliamentarian as a father figure.
‘If I’m in any kind of difficulty, Qaaree [MP Rasheed] would assist me and vice versa. We were very close, always. He was like a father to me. For him to act this way, on a political issue, forcing me to follow his lead, was deeply saddening,’ he said.
MP Rasheed wished Shafiu to amend his stance to the way he had given his statement. According to MP Rasheed, this was the only way Shafiu would escaped unscathed.
‘Qaaree sent several messages, telling me to give my statement to Police in a certain way. My lawyer has all these messages. My phone was confiscated by Police, even they would have seen all that’s there in my phone. I took screenshots of all of it. Qaaree told me that he’s giving his statement like this, so Shafiu, you also give your statement like that. He pressured me, saying this was the only way we both will be saved, things like this,’ he said.
MP Rasheed urged Shafiu to say that he had given MVR 300,000 on MP Faris’ orders. Shafiu denies this. He also believes that MP Rasheed gave this testimony because of the pressure he faced.
‘He [MP Rasheed] urged me to give the same statement he did. I wanted to be honest, I refused to comply. Qaaree’s statement was that I had given him MVR 300,000, that he had questioned me on who had given the cash, to which I had said the cash was from Faris Maumoon. But that was a blatant lie. He made that false statement because of the pressures he had faced. The messages will prove this,’ he said.
Shafiu was present when MP Rasheed signed the no confidence motion on Speaker Maseeh. He said the MP had signed the motion without any compulsion and on his free will. No cash had exchanged hands, Shafiu remembers.
‘Isdhoo Constituency MP Ahmed Rasheed Ibrahim signed the motion because he wanted to. He made the request of me. I did as he requested. Faris Maumoon, another person and I witnessed this. There were four people there when he signed the motion. He signed it, out of his free will. MP Rasheed made a small prayer in front of us before he signed, after saying he had faith in God,’ Shafiu added.
Shafiu stressed that no cash had exchanged between him, MP Ahmed Rasheed and MP Faris.
‘I did not give MP Rasheed any cash from MP Faris. Did not make him sign after offering cash. What Qaaree is saying about MP Faris is a blatant lie. No financial transactions happened before, during and after signing the motion. I’ve made that clear to Maldives Police Service,’ he said.
Shafiu said he had no connections of Faris, therefore any audio recordings that say MP Faris gave him cash would be a false statement.
‘Police would not have any such audio in their investigation. The evidence they say was from my phone would not be on my phone, I have that guarantee. I don’t have any relation with Faris, other than a passing hi when we run into each other in rallies,’
The state claims that Shafiu was the intermediary between MP Faris and MP Rasheed. Shafiu said if that was the case, bribery charges must be first raised on him, then on MP Faris.
‘I believe that if I was the intermediary between the two, then bribery charges must be first raised on me, then on MP Faris. Then and even now, what I’m saying is that MP Faris must be put on trial after me,’
Shafiu continues to receive offers to give his testimony in a certain way. Along with the offers, he has received threats as well. However, Shafiu continues to vouch for MP Faris’ innocence over bribery claims.
‘To this moment, I have received several threatening messages from Qaaree. I’ve received numerous threats, death threats as well… There’s no way I will give a testimony against MP Faris, that’s something they’re trying to frame him for. I condemn that,’ he said.