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To Invest Or Not: GMR Fiasco At Hands Of Yameen & Friends Leave Indian Investors Nervous, Non-Committal

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At the lavish Ashoka Palace in the Indian capital New Delhi, visuals of clear turquoise water, white beaches, exciting under-water experience and boduberu dance set the mood for the delegates of over 400 companies who were here to attend the third edition of Maldives Investment Forum on Tuesday.

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Government in its keynote address tried to recapture the confidence of Indian investors as apprehension was running high due to the abrupt termination of international contract with GMR Infrastructure Ltd.

Government said they were ready to promote a transparent, hassle-free and liberal trading and investment environment and will welcome investment from India with open arms. ” The government is committed to change its legal framework to allow trade and investment to diversify economy and there has been massive progress on the infrastructure front,” Vice President Abdulla Jihad said.

“I want to assure all potential investors that Maldives is open for business. It is open 24 hours,” he added.

Even though the delegates looked impressed and were confident about the potential of doing business in the Maldives, the GMR fiasco held them back from committing immediately.

“No doubt, the Maldives looks like a dream destination for doing business. But, I would like to know more about the legal and bilateral aspects before we move forward,” said a delegate while looking at his info kit on investing in the Maldives

Another delegate who was here to explore the possibilities of investing in telecom services said, “It is very important to have a set up where we can feel secure about investing money in a certain project. Let’s see how it rolls.”

The concern over providing a conductive environment to do business in the Maldives also appeared in Indian newspapers. A leading Indian business paper Mint wrote, “The memory of the Maldives government abruptly terminating a India-Malaysia joint venture for modernising the Male airport in 2012 saw Indian industry seeking greater predictability and protection for investments in the Maldives… The cancellation of the deal had soured ties between India and the Maldives.”

Last month, GMR won a lawsuit over termination of contract to run Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).  In a major embarrassment, government was ordered to pay USD 250 million to Indian infrastructural company GMR by a 3-member Singaporean Arbitration Tribunal in its final order.

The third edition of the investment forum was held in partnership with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to seek investments in infrastructural development, airport expansion and various other sectors to boost job creation in the country.

Jihad also announced that the country will sign its first free trade agreement early next year to boost trade and cooperation with other countries.

“It is investment, both foreign and domestic that has transformed our economy and elevated to current position. On the strength of our past achievements, the government is looking into new investments and is actively seeking foreign direct investment as it is one of the fundamental driving forces of Government policies,” he added.

The annual Maldives Investment Forum was held in Singapore in 2014 and in Beijing last year. The next edition of the forum will be held in Doha, Qatar.

My President Is A Respected Economist, Says Maldivian Economic Development Minister In New Delhi!!!!

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“President Yameen is a respected economist…,” this is how Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed introduced his president at Maldives Investment Forum in the Indian capital New Delhi on Tuesday.

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“President Abdulla Yameen is a respected economist under whose governance GDP and per capita income have improved, ” he went on to add while facing uncomfortable questions from reporters on the sidelines of the event.

However, the qualifications of Yameen – infamous as an increasingly autocratic President – are bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a master’s degree in Public Policy, not exactly good enough to hail him as an economist!

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And off late, Yameen has been accused of large-scale money-laundering and muzzling political voices with his strong arm tactics and misuse of the local courts.

But Saeed insisted that “he (Yameen) is a well-informed leader who is focused on  bringing social harmony through development and job creation” while avoiding pointed questions on eroded international image of his country.

The interaction with the reporters in New Delhi during the Maldives Investment forum came across as another embarrassment as ministers in the Yameen’s cabinet jump from one faux pax to another.

While asked about the corruption charges facing President Yameen, Saeed’s response came from a scripted note, which had no relation to the questions being asked to the minister.

Speaking on similar lines as his boss Yameen, Saeed also expressed the government’s collective desire to make the Maldives the next Singapore (interestingly something that Yameen’s half-brother and mentor Maumoon Gayoom does not approve!)

“We are not comparing the Maldives to Singapore… but it does translate into the desire to look up to Singapore,” Saeed said while he pitched for greater investment in the Maldivian tourism and infrastructure.

Contrary to the reports of World Bank that the Maldivian economy had slowed down in 2015 and  figures on fiscal deficits and public debt were sobering, Saeed claimed that in Yameen’s three-year tenure there was a steady growth in GDP and public debt has been fixed.

Coming Soon! The Oil Leaks : How Politicians & Bureaucrats Masterminded Biggest Scam In Maldives

in Investigation/News/Politics by

In 2011, the biggest ever investigation into the 30-year-long dictatorship of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom blew the lid off an $800 million Oil Scam. And all the pointers led back to Gayoom’s younger half-brother, Abdulla Yameen – the present President of The Maldives.


The investigation, which was done by the Editor-In-Chief of FocusMaldives, Sumon K Chakrabarti and published in The Week magazine, was based on a confidential report that was submitted to the President’s Office by a UK-based finance consultancy called Grant Thornton, in September 2010. The previous March, then President Mohamed Nasheed – the first to be democratically elected in the Maldives had requested Grant Thornton to begin an investigation to trace alleged ‘hidden’ assets of Gayoom, his family members and associates. This followed on public allegations by the auditor-general, in 2008, that Gayoom had used government funds and national institutions for personal benefit during his years in power.

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The Singapore police too began an official criminal investigation into money laundering by Gayoom and his family members; today, the amounts being discussed range from $700 – $800 million. The Grant Thornton investigation was carried out mostly in Singapore, and the report, when it came out in September, was not just a serious indictment of President Yameen – but also a fascinating exploration of how autocracies often fall back on blood brother dictatorships to do business. In this case, that ‘brother’ was Burma.


MODUS OPERANDI


the week maldives article 1
The investigation was based on a confidential report that was submitted to the President’s Office by a UK-based finance consultancy called Grant Thornton

“Ghost ships” regularly left Singapore in the name of delivering oil to the Maldives – but never arrived here.’ He continued: ‘We are a tiny nation, and our oil consumption is very small. But the State Trading Organisation (Singapore) used to buy oil in bulk … and sell it either on the black market or to Myanmar.’

Maldives-Oil-Scam-Investigation-Documents
PeekABoo: From The Leaked Documents. Recently, Yameen has also been accused of involvement in massive corruption and embezzlement of public money from resort sales

The State Trading Organisation (Singapore) was set up in 1997 as a subsidiary of the State Trading Organisation. The latter, run and largely owned by the Maldivian state, was established in 1964 with the sole aim of keeping the prices of essential commodities at a stable rate for citizens of the atolls, mainly by importing and trading food staples, fuel, lubricants and construction materials. Today, the majority of the STO’s activities, where the government currently owns around 92.3 percent, constitute the supply and sale of petroleum and aviation fuel. STO Singapore’s mandate was initially limited to purchasing diesel and related products on behalf of the Maldives, mostly sourcing from companies such as Shell Eastern, the Singapore Petroleum Company and Petronas, the Malaysian-state run firm. But soon STO Singapore was authorised to sell these products to other countries, particularly Burma. The majority of its sales thus went to either Male or Rangoon, with the exception of 2002, when the majority of revenue came from Malaysia, through forged invoices.

When the Grant Thornton investigators landed in the Maldives late last year, they were provided with three hard drives from the President’s Commission, a body set up by Nasheed’s government to investigate allegations of corruption and misappropriation of assets under the previous regime. These were copies of hard drives from the STO Singapore office as of 2009. And the web of corruption started unravelling.

the week maldives article
“Ghost ships” regularly left Singapore in the name of delivering oil to the Maldives – but never arrived here

A NEW CACHE OF DOCUMENTS


FocusMaldives has now accessed a massive cache of leaked documents from a highly-placed source within the present government in the Maldives, which indicate that the 2010 investigation on the Oil Scam was just the tip of the iceberg.

“These never before seen documents about the illegal sale of $800m of oil to the Burmese Junta back in the 1990-2000 expose in far more detail how STO and Mocom carried out their fraud,” says Chakrabarti.

The leaked cache of documents include bank statements, Telegraphic transfers or telex transfers (TT) and swift transfers, Bills of Landing, letters of indemnity, track records, voyage instructions and many more. Maldives 1

The massive leak of information comes at a time of growing opposition to Yameen, as a broad opposition coalition including his former VPs, defence ministers, political allies and even his half-brother – former dictator Gayoom – seeks to remove him from power.

Recently, Yameen has also been accused of involvement in massive corruption and embezzlement of public money from resort sales, as well as elaborately planning to launder $1.5 billion through the Maldives central bank.
As our journalists go through the documents, the new investigation will soon be unravelled in an investigative series titled- The Oil Leaks (Loot On The High Seas: How Politicians & Bureaucrats Masterminded The Biggest Scam In The Maldives) Oil Scam Feature-1

FocusMaldives has also accessed documents presented in the high court of Singapore, which has been kept under the wraps for many years now. Informed sources indicated that a lot of money has been spent since 2011 to keep these documents from the public eye.

When Defamation Became “Deformation” & “Deforestation”; Ruling MP Trolled For Silly Spelling Mistake

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It was a silly spelling mistake but social media spares none. Ruling MP Jaufar Dawood from constituency of R.Ungoofaaru, who sponsored the controversial defamation bill, wrongly worded defamation as “deformation” and people could not stop obsessing over the the genuine “spelling mistake” on micro blogging site Twitter.

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But if you think this is it, then wait for the man who corrected Jaufar Dawood, not once, not twice but thrice!

Ex-Prez Nasheed First Interview After Imprisonment: Here’s What He Had To Say

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Sanctions should be placed on Maldivian officials for alleged human rights abuses, says Maldives former President Mohamed Nasheed adding that his “battle for democracy” is not over yet.

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Nasheed, who is currently in United Kingdom for medical treatment, in his first interview after being imprisoned in March last year has urged the world that to impose targeted sanctions key government officials for flouting human rights in the Indian ocean archipelago.

“We want people who are abusing human rights in the Maldives to be banned from travelling to the other countries. Their assets and funds should be held, until they relent,” said Nasheed in an interview to BBC.

He also asked current President Abdulla Yameen to fee all political prisoners while expressing his concern on political situation escalating to dictatorship.

Meanwhile, when questions on his intention to return to the Maldives after the treatment surfaced, he said that he would like to return to a “free” Maldives but vowed to return to contest the next election in 2018 which is an “unfinished business” to him, his lawyer Amal Clooney told CNN.

“I’d rather sit and read and watch a film. But I think there’s lot to be done,” said Nasheed.

The British Prime Minister David Cameron, coming out in support of Nasheed, warned that sanction would be imposed on Maldivians if the government fails to free political prisoners. “… and yes we are prepared to consider targeted action against individuals if further progress isn’t made,” he said in parliament,” said Cameron.

According to media reports, Nasheed, earlier, had said that he had not decided to whether to return to the Maldives at a press conference Monday. “I know the question you all want to ask is will I go back. This has been more eloquently answered by The Clash in 1982 when I was doing my A-Levels — ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go?'” Nasheed told reporters.

However, he also added, “Let me be clear. I will go to the Maldives. I will definitely go to the Maldives, there is no doubt about that. But only the question is how and when.”

Nasheed is the Maldives first democratically elected President who was ousted from power in 2012 in an alleged military coup and later in March 2015 was sentenced to 13-years in jail on alleged terrorism charges. After high political drama and diplomatic pressure from UK, US, Sri Lanka and India, the government allowed him to travel to UK for an urgent surgery after his brother agreed to act as a guarantor on his behalf during his 30-day visit.

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