The case regarding the ventilator scandal was forwarded for prosecution without completing the duty prosecution stage, says Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem.
The PG said this during a meeting held by the parliamentary committee on independent institutions on Tuesday, noting that he does not believe the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was hasty to conclude the investigation regarding the major corruption involving the procurement of ventilators through Dubai-based Executors General Trading in support of the government’s response efforts against the global Covid-19 pandemic.
However, Shameem noted that although three separate meetings were held with the commission regarding the duty prosecution stage, it was incomplete when ACC forwarded the case for prosecution.
Shameem introduced duty prosecution for the first time in Maldives, after assuming office, after an internal inquiry into the largest case of graft involving the Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) highlighted recklessness in accepting some cases.
Responding to the PG’s claims, ACC President Mariyam Shiuna stated that duty prosecution is not mandated under the Maldivian laws and that it is a practice. She stressed that having to complete duty prosecution paves delays in investigation.
Shiuna highlighted that they had decided to proceed with the ventilator case after two weeks of waiting for a response to an inquiry at the PG Office.
The Ministry of Health initially contracted Executors General Trading based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, to deliver 75 ventilators during March 2020. The contract was worth MVR 34.50 million and there were reports of wrongdoings in the ministry’s expenses for the project, according to a special audit report following which the corruption watchdog and Maldives Police Service (MPS) investigated, followed by the PGO.
ACC sought charges against 11 ministry officials including the minister after concluding investigations, however, PGO declined the case and decided against pressing charges, citing insufficient evidence.
PG Shameem had revealed that although there were administrative issues, ultimately the PGO will seek evidence in order to raise charges, adding that said administrative wrongdoings have raised the question whether the ministry officials had acted responsibly.
Since then, the corruption watchdog has decided to review the case.
Shiuna has also refuted claims of hasty investigations, claiming that the commission had engaged in numerous discussions and reviewed multiple documents in the investigation process. She added that they had worked to conclude the investigation earlier than other case because some of those involved in the case were under suspension.
ACC drew criticism from parliamentarians for recklessness on previous occasions as well and MPs have moved to strip members at the commission, since.
Complaints of ACC’s negligence began surfacing after the PGO sent back cases seeking charges against two former finance ministers and a deputy tourism minister, part of convicted former president Yameen's government, saying the investigations were incomplete. Shiuna stressed that they had engaged in discussions with the PGO on several occasions in connection to the case and that the case was concluded under the instructions and recommendations from the PGO.