By Rahul Kumar
New Delhi, Jan 5: A criminal court has begun the trial of former Maldivian president Abdulla Yameen earlier this week over numerous charges related to bribes and money laundering.
The case against Yameen relates to an allegation over accepting a bribe of $1 million for leasing out Aarah island of Vaavu atoll for the development of a resort during his time as the President. Yameen also has money laundering charges against him in the case.
Aarah island was leased to a foreign company for developing it as a resort. A close associate Yoosuf Naeem has been accused of bribing Yameen in the case. Naeem is a former parliamentarian, reports Maldivian website The Edition.
Yameen is accused of misusing his official authority to launder the money. He faces two more hearings in January itself.
If the former president is found guilty of money laundering he will have to undergo five years imprisonment. The outcome of the case is important as he can get disqualified from running for the presidential election in 2023.
Besides the Aarah island case, there is another case of a similar nature against Yameen. The second case is about the leasing of Fuggiri island in the Raa atoll, reports The Sun website.
Earlier, he had been sentenced to five years of jail over the leasing of Gaafu Alifu Vodamulla. However the Supreme Court overturned the sentence and released him in November 2021, after which he started a campaign against India. Yameen is believed to be close to China and has taken a strident anti-India stand.
His release by the court has been challenged by ruling party members. Abdulla Riyaz, a leader of the Maldives National Party (MNP) said that Yameen was freed by the court not because he did not steal but because of errors in the trial.
Addressing a press conference this week, Riyaz said that Yameen walked free on a technicality and there are many other cases pending against him. Riyaz said: "... he received money other than that which he received as income as a president. That he did something which the constitution explicitly prohibits of a president, make a direct business investment".