Bribery Charges against sports minister Mahloof: says “I’m innocent”

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A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Feb 10 over the charges raised against Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, Ahmed Mahloof.

Bribery charges against Mahloof were forwarded to the Criminal Court on 24 November 2021. Though the youth minister has pled not guilty, much evidence provided by the prosecution which also included former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb who agreed to give verbal testimony made Mahloof’s case weak.

Based on the findings of an investigation led by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) into the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) scandal, Mahloof is charged for accepting bribes.

It was discovered that in year 2014, a sum of USD 33,000 was transferred to Mahloof’s account through SoF –the company accused of laundering the state funds. There is evidence that stated this was a bribe by then Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, in exchange for Mahloof’s vote in favour for the government’s SEZ bill.

Mahloof, was a lawmaker aligned with then ruling Progressive Party of Maldives led by then President Abdulla Yameen, said that he had voted in the mutual interest of the party and waved off the accusations being raised on him and claimed that he was being used as a scapegoat.

During the hearing, prosecution has submitted over seven names who are ready to give verbal testimonies along with 29 documents as evidence. This also included the chatlog between Adeeb and Mahloof. Countering the claims, Mahloof’s lawyer said they wished to submit evidence for defence and hence, requested the judge to extend the time for them to submit the documents.

Presiding judge, Jude Mohamed Misbah noted that as there were many documents submitted regarding the case and that additional time is required to go through them, accepted the appeal. The court did not detail when the next trial on the case will be held.

If the charges against Mahloof is proven true, he faces a jail sentence of three years, two months and 12 days.

Mahloof, previously said he will resign if charges were raised, and also threatened that the government “will be exposed” if his case goes to trial.

He was suspended from his ministerial post twice in connection to the case, the latest one having been on 9 June 2021. His suspension was lifted four months later on 9 October 2021.