Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has requested the Prosecutor General’s Office for criminal charges against former Vice President and Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad, former Finance Minister Ahmed Munawar, and former Deputy Tourism Minister Hussain Lirar.
According to ACC, the charges against Jihad, Munawar and Lirar being sought in response to a case submitted to the commission regarding put- option right included in seven agreements, signed under joint venture agreements for tourist resort development, stipulating that the government must relinquish its shares to private shareholders or a party of their choosing, free of cost, once development phase of the islands are complete.
ACC completed the investigation and submitted the case to the Prosecutor General’s Office for charges on Thursday.
ACC has requested for them to be charged with using influence of position to obtain or confer an undue advantage under Article 12 (a) of Anti-Corruption Act, with acting in a manner which precludes an advantage to state where a benefit exists under Article 13 (1) of the Act.
The commission is also seeking the charge of knowingly performing an act that is not lawfully authorized while serving as a public official under Section 512 (a) of the Penal Code, and the charge of misuse of official authority as a public official to obtain a benefit for him/herself or another person to which he/she is not entitled under Section 513 (b) of the Penal Code.
ACC said that seven islands were leased for development as tourist resorts by Tourism Ministry; B. Thiladhoo, Sh. Hurasfaru, Sh. Naainfaru, R. Fasmendhoo, K. Emboodhoo Finolhu, K. Kodhipparufalhu (Dhidhdhoo Finolhu), and K. Kodhipparufalhu (Ameengiri), out of which all islands, with the exception of B. Thiladhoo, were leased under Article 5 of Tourism Act, while B. Thiladhoo was leased following the eighth amendment to the Tourism Act.
ACC that while a put-option right was included in a joint venture agreement signed between Finance Ministry and a private company to lease B. Thiladhoo for development as a tourist resort on October 4, 2016, Article 5 (g) of the amended Tourism Act grants the government the option of selling its shares to partners in joint ventures, but not the option of relinquishing the shares to partners in joint ventures without any return.
Meanwhile, the remaining six islands; Sh. Hurasfaru, Sh. Naainfaru, R. Fasmendhoo, K. Emboodhoo Finolhu, K. Kodhipparufalhu (Dhidhdhoo Finolhu), and K. Kodhipparufalhu (Ameengiri) were leased without public tenders, under lease agreements signed with joint venture companies formed under joint venture agreements formed between the government and private companies under the exemptions declared under Article 5 of Tourism Act. And while the lease acquisition cost was paid to the government, ACC said it believes the exemptions under Article 5 are awarded under the understanding that the government, in addition to receiving land rent once the resort is operationalized, will also continue to receive return on investment.
ACC said that put-option rights were included in Article 15 of the joint venture agreement for K. Emboodhoo Finolhu, Article 15 of the joint venture agreement for Sh. Naainfaru, Article 15 of the joint venture agreement for Sh. Hurasfaru, Article 15 of the joint venture agreement for R. Fasmendhoo, Article 11 of the joint venture agreement for K. Kodhipparufalhu, declaring that the 5 percent share owned by the government will be relinquished to the private partner of joint ventures at zero cost, once the construction and development phase is complete.
ACC said that letters presented by investors for some of the islands show the put-option right had been included following discussions by Tourism Ministry.
ACC said that joint venture agreements were included as lease agreement schedules when signing the lease agreements with joint venture companies and (c) and (d) of the preamble of the lease agreements refer to the joint venture agreements and declares they have put-option right.
The commission said the agreements in question were signed on behalf of the government by Jihad, as the Finance Minister at the time, while the agreement for B. Thiladhoo was signed on behalf of the government by Munawar, who served as Finance Minister after Jihad was appointed as Vice President.
Meanwhile, the lease agreement between the Tourism Ministry and private companies for B. Thiladhoo, Sh. Hurasfaru, Sh. Naainfaru were signed by Lirar, who had been serving as Deputy Tourism Minister at the time.