“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.
“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!
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.
The shocking victory of real-estate mogul Donald Trump becoming the 45th President-elect of the United State of America is partly being attributed to that FBI Director James Comey’s announcement of a new investigation against rival Hillary Clinton two weeks before polling day. But Clinton’s campaign was disrupted the maximum by Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks which continues to publish the emails of her campaign chair John Podesta, a major Washington insider.
The whistleblowing website has published close to 56,000 emails from Podesta’s private account since October 7, sometimes more than once a day, revealing the internal communications of Clinton’s campaign staff.
And one of them is linked to the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. John Podesta also owns Washington-based lobbyist firm Podesta Group run by his brother Tony. The firm signed a lucrative deal with the Maldives last September to counsel Abdulla Yameen-led government amid threat of sanctions and was paid USD 50,000 by a company implicated in country’s biggest corruption scandal.
And whether or not Trump will act against Clinton, who, he had said during a debate would “be in jail” if he became the president, Podesta can actually be investigated over its links with a money-laundering regime in Maldives.
Podesta, the “superlobbyist” has been accused for “whitewashing” Yameen and his cronies’ crimes, as alleged by opposition and received its fee from state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).
Podesta was hired by Abdulla Yameen-led government to provide strategic counsel to the government.
The contract with the government published by Podesta Group on the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) office’s website read, “(Podesta will) provide strategic counsel on strengthening ties (of Maldives) to the US government.”
The deal was cracked at whopping USD 300,000 for a period of six months between September 8, 2015 and March 7, 2016.
Government initially denied reports of hiring Podesta but e-mails containing details of cost negotiations with the firm — sent by Jeffrey Salim Waheed, the deputy permanent representative in New York — were leaked. The then Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon were also marked in the mails.
Adeeb, who brokered may such PR deals for his boss, was in direct communication with Foreign Ministry officials over hiring Podesta. Adeeb was also informed that Podesta wanted its fee to be paid in monthly instalments of USD 50,000.
Even though the deal was called off in October after Adeeb’s arrest on the charges of plotting to assassinate Yameen in boat blast on September 30, Podesta received one-month fee for its services from state tourism promotion company MMPRC.
Documents filed by Podesta at the US Department of Justice disclosed that the firm was paid USD 50,000 from MMPRC.
Later, MMPRC’s former head Abdulla Ziyath was found guilty in money embezzlement USD 80 million from state coffers along with Adeeb.
Podesta, however, was not the only firm to be paid a lucrative fee for polishing the Maldives’ deteriorating image by MMPRC. Cherie Blair’s Omnia Strategy was also paid more than £200,000 for consultancy on “democratic consolidation” to Yameen by the state tourism promotion company.
The main-opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) alleged that the government was spending obscene amounts of public money for image-building.
“Government officials are clearly rattled at the prospect of facing targeted sanctions. But rather than doing the right thing and freeing the political prisoners, they are spending obscene amounts of public money on foreign lobbyists, who will try to whitewash their crimes,” Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, the party’s international spokesman was quoted as saying by Maldives Independent.
In September this year, an investigative documentary by Al-Jazeera exposed embezzlement of money from state coffers to private accounts by illegally leasing islands. The documentary claimed that President Yameen and his associates
The secretly filmed interviews describe how men on mopeds carried millions in cash to the President and his aides with some funds amounting to as large as $1.5 billion.
In a bid to attack President Abdulla Yameen, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s loyalist Umar Naseer. in an apparent u-turn. said that conviction of former President Mohamed Nasheed was “unlawful” fueling speculations of coalition between the two to counter the dictatorial regime.
Former Home Minister Umar taking a strong position on PPM’s fifth anniversary said Nasheed’s arrest of judge “was not an act of terrorism,” Maldives Independent reported.
His u-turn on rival Nasheed followed Maumoon’s decision to withdraw support from Yameen-led government alleging authoritarianism and corruption.
Umar who had previously been at loggerheads with Nasheed on various occasions said, “I do not want Mohamed Nasheed to return to the presidency. But justice is justice. He abducted a judge. He abducted the judge as the commander-in-chief. That is not terrorism. That is unlawful arrest. The sentence for that is between two to three years in jail. We are advocating for justice.”
The rift in ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives is now translating into act of rebellion as the MPs apparently belonging to the faction led by former President Maumoon Gayoom said they will put national interest before President Abdulla Yameen’s diktat.
The development came after court stripped PPM’s President Maumoon Gayoom of all his powers and handed the full control to President Yameen.
In a press conference on Thursday, eight MPs announced that the decision of President Yameen has done irreparable damage and they will bring a number of changes in the Parliamentary work adding that they will no longer abide by the whip line set by Yameen.
The faction criticised lack of transparency, increasing authoritarianism and allegations of corruption by the government and vowed to work with the opposition to restore democracy in the country.
Meanwhile, MDP welcomed the decision of the MPs and said that the party looks forward to working with the MPs to bring about any necessary legislative changes to uphold the Constitution, protect fundamental freedoms, and to restore democracy in the country.
“In light of the immense difficulties that the people of the Maldives are to face, it is encouraging that 8 Government party MPs have pledged their intention to work with the opposition. We ask other Government MPs to do same, to work towards reform. This is now leading to President Yameen losing his majority in the Parliament. With this, President Yameen has lost any remaining legitimacy he may have had,” said former President Mohamed Nasheed.
On Sunday, Chief Judge Abdulla Didi ruled in favour of President Yameen citing extrordinary circumstances due to Maummon’s refusal to convene the party’s governing council and sacking of his deputy, Maldives Independent reported.
The court made President Yameen, who was the advisor of the party, as the head of PPM.
Maumoon’s Gayoom, meanwhile said that he will take the case to Supreme Court.
The rift between Gayoom brothers goes back to June when President Yameen led government introduced the Tourism Bill to which Maumoon strongly opposed. The rift got wider when Maumoon refused to endorse Yameen as the party’s
Presidential candidate for the next election followed by sacking of Faris Gayoom in reaction.
Maumoon who is in loggerheads with his half-brother Yameen has time and again criticised him for his decisions to implement death penalty and leave the commonwealth.
Maumoon daughter and former Foreign Affairs Minister Dunya Maumoon and his loyal and former Home Minsiter Umar Naseer had quit Yameen-led government citing differences.
Hillary Clinton, the United States’ Democratic Party presidential candidate who is vying strongly to become the first woman president of the country in less than two weeks is eye of the storm following 2000 pages of email leaks by the WikiLeaks.
From her questionable relationship between the Clinton Foundation and its donors, Clinton’s ease with powerful interests on Wall Street, her ties to wealthy campaign contributors, the leaks have it all.
The emails stolen from Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta did not really unearth a major sandal, or a case of corruption but it surely created international furore making front page headlines.
But, this story by Nevada Country Scooper got even the Maldives by surprise as it claimed that Clinton struck a deal of “The Imperial Maldives” for USD 200 million.
The story published on NC Scooper on October 20 that quoted sources from the WikiLeaks said:
This afternoon, WikiLeaks says sources in the Clinton Foundation inadvertently leaked the details of an apparently secret deal with Christie’s International Real Estate in New York. Several recorded phone conversations between Christie’s executives and Clinton board member, Frank Guistra, clearly show that a deal for “The Imperial Maldives” had been closed. “The Imperial Maldives” is a development of 185 water villas set above the turquoise waters of the North Male Atoll. According to the recordings, the agreed price was $200 million (U.S).
It further reported:
Also according to the recordings, this deal began the morning after the last debate. The morning after Trump told Clinton he would appoint a special prosecutor and put her in prison. Mr. Guistra is heard to say, “Trump can drag his sorry orange ass down to the Maldives if he wants her so bad. There’s no extradition treaty!” [laughing]
The Clinton camp is very tight-lipped at the moment and no comments from Clinton Foundation board members. WikiLeaks seems to suggest that the Clintons are feeling the pressure of a world-wide criminal organization becoming frayed at the seams, and are looking for a hideout until they can hatch their next diabolical plan for world domination. Or, those fuckers just need a real good vacation.
On social media many people lost their mind over the news and took Twitter to comment about it.
But were you looking closely? Did you read the story without paying attention to the last line, “WikiLeaks seems to suggest that the Clintons are feeling the pressure of a world-wide criminal organization becoming frayed at the seams, and are looking for a hideout until they can hatch their next diabolical plan for world domination. Or, those fuckers just need a real good vacation,” good enough to figure out that it was a satire, which many did not understand.
The website known for its satirical take also added a picture captioned “Bill Clinton seen walking his dogs Buster and Frank at his mansion in the Maldives,” which is a file picture from 2015.
The NC Scooper, well-known for being mistaken as a hard-hitting news platform, even takes sarcastic tone while telling about itself:
“…the Scooper did not own a printing press, nor did they have the courage to borrow one. And frankly they didn’t have the funds either. So the Scooper relied solely on shouting at people on the street to circulate the news. Later in the 1930s, the Scooper expanded its shouting service to Nevada City, often paying vagrants to assault citizens with news.”
It later clarifies in its manifesto that it is a sarcastically website but again, with a humorous undertone,”The Scooper is a satirical website is in scope and intent. Sometimes it’s funny; often it is not. We provide fake news and social criticism in a satirical setting. Our intention is not to fool or trick anyone, but obviously it happens.”
CHRI: The nations is sliding into a dictatorial system once again and the situation will soon push the island nation into the brink of violence and anarchy. Suspend, exclude and halt the current government.
CMAG: Deeply disappointed in lack of progress in the Maldives and now on a formal agenda and threat of suspension in March.
Ruling ‘Defamation Fame’ MP Jaufar Dawood: Commonwealth is ‘camel fart’. If we haven’t any advantage as a member of the Commonwealth, why shouldn’t we leave them?
Ruling MP Riyaz Rasheed: Now is the time for Maldives to leave Commonwealth. People’s Majlis would deliberate over the matter and make its decision when it re-opens.
Willy Mutunga: The country is facing severe democracy deficit.
Foreign Ministry: Maldives has decided to leave the Commonwealth.
October the 13- the day when President Abdulla Yameen-led government, taking forward its isolation policy and dictatorial behaviour, slayed 34-year-old tie with the Commonwealth. The government alleged that the group was deliberating “punitive actions” following the situation that led to ouster of former President Mohamed Nasheed in 2012. Foreign Ministry said it was “difficult, but inevitable” step as the 53-nation group has been treating the current government “unjustly and unfairly”.
The development came weeks after the rhetoric from all the President’s men -who asked the government to flex its muscles – to leave the group after Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) put the Maldives on its formal agenda and gave another six months time to work on the six-point agenda threatening suspension from the group. That time, too, the ruling party MP Riyaz Rasheed indicated to “a group of individuals living in self-exile in UK” who were influencing the group’s decision.
The Foreign Ministry scuffling at the group further said that the Maldives was being used as an object for organisation’s own relevance.
(Maldives)… would be an easy object that can be used, especially in the name of democracy promotion, to increase the organisation’s own relevance and leverage in international politics
The decision to quit the Commonwealth created international furore within minutes with many expressing not just disappointment over it but also suggesting that consequential international isolation will adversely affect its citizens who are already fighting a long battle with human rights abuses, high-level corruption and crackdown on dissent.
One of the first reactions came from President Yameen’s half brother and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who has been at loggerheads with the former over a number of issues. said he was disappointed on leaving the group as he was the one who “led the country into Commonwealth”.
The 78-year-old President of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) said he was disappointed on leaving the group as he was the one who “led the country into Commonwealth” and that “isolation will not solve problems”.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said members of the Commonwealth will share his sadness worldwide.
I have received news that the Maldives Government has today decided to leave the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth family at large – its member governments and its peoples worldwide – will share my sadness and disappointment at this decision.
British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Maldives James Dauris said that he was saddened by the decision.
Former President Nasheed took social networking site Facebook to express his anger and said:
Removing the Maldives from the Commonwealth is an act of desperation by a President who doesn’t like the truth and is unwilling to be held accountable for his authoritarianism.
Internationally acclaimed human rights watchdog Amnesty International suggested that instead of lashing out at international criticism, the country should address the situation.
Instead of complaining about unfair treatment, the Maldives government should look at engaging more constructively with the international community.
Former foreign minister Ahmed Shaheed told New York Times that isolation will bring more criticism to the country.
He is getting deeper and deeper into isolation. He would think he’s insulating himself from Commonwealth criticism, but he will receive more and more.
David White, the chief of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative called October the 13th as sad day.
Other stakeholders- MPs, journalists, politicians and activists – took Twitter to express shock and disappointment.
The government also received flak worldwide for severing ties with Iran to become a part of the league of Sunni nations to join Saudi Arabia in setting diplomatic agenda against the country.
President Yameen is also facing in-party isolation as most of his former cabinet ministers are either jailed, a part of rainbow coalition Maldivian United Opposition (MUO), have resigned citing differences. And, most importantly from his half-brother, mentor and party chief- Maumoon Gayoom.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson – the Brexit rival of Nasheed’s good friend David Cameron- who is currently the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom said:
(The UK will) continue to work with the Maldives Government to help strengthen democracy, particularly freedom of speech and the media and independence of the judiciary.
Chairman of Fenaka Corporation, Mohamed Nadheem has resigned after anti-graft watchdog Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) launched a probe into theft of USD 1 million from state coffers.
No official confirmation has been made in this regard and the reason for the same is stated to unclear
Nadheem is the husband of former President Maumoon Gayoom’s daughter Yumna Maumoon
The company is undergoing major changes in top management after the allegations of corruption
MVR 17 million issued by the corporation USD 1 million went missing in August this year
Former Managing Director of Fenaka Corporation, Ahmed Nimal was removed from his position on September 26
Nadheem in his resignation letter to Privatisation board said:
Since my appointment to the post on December 25, 2013 I have performed my duties sincerely, to the best of his abilities. He said that he worked with the aim of achieving goals, related to the company, outlined in the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) manifesto. With the help of the company’s board, I tried to make the 24-hour electricity pledge a reality. I worked for the betterment of the Maldivian people.
As a series of corruption allegations loom over President Abdulla Yameen, he apologised for failing to check the country’s biggest corruption scam in which over USD 80 million was transferred from state coffers to private accounts by the state-owned tourism firm – Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation.
President Yameen, who was also implicated in the scam as one the beneficiaries, did not take responsibility for it and shifted the blame on former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb.
During the inauguration of USD 15million water and sanitation project in southern city of Fuvahmulah, Yameen said:
Even tonight, I want to apologise that the MMPRC corruption occurred during my presidency. For that I ask forgiveness from the people… But no matter how vigilant we are, criminals will continue to commit crimes. The only means to deter crime is harsher penalties.
He said he was not aware of the fact that adeeb was stealing money from the state contrary to the claims of the former auditor general who had alleged that President Yameen refused to take action when he was informer about the corruption in MMPRC in 2014.
Even though President Yameen apologised for the scam, opposition did not seem convinced and said that it was not enough on his part.
Maldives United Opposition Leader (MUO) Mohamed Jameel Ahmed said that an apology cannot compensate for “robbery” of a billion Rufiyaa and demanded an independent probe seeking his resignation.
Rayyithunge baithul maalun kuri biliyan rufiyaage vakkamah thin akuruge ma aaf akun badhal nudhevwyne.
Former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb had a contact saved in his now infamous gold iPhone as ‘Lord P’. The same gold iPhone that exposed how Adeeb and his mentor-tuned-boss turned-antagonist President Abdulla Yameen were not only involved in high-level corruption but also in wiping off anyone and everyone who did not fall in line — media, politicians, activists and even its own ministers; now has another story to tell: How the two cracked a deal with ‘Lord P’ to shroud the autocratic nature of the government with a well-crafted image of the Maldives’ economic development.
But it was not the first time when Yameen agreed to spend a fortune to negate the banana republic impression. Last summer, Yameen signed a lucrative deal with Cherie Blair- wife of former Prime Minister and Labour Party chief Tony Blair- after she was rejected by the first democratically elected President Mohamed Nasheed who had Amal Clooney by his side.
Cherie who was earlier ready to represent Nasheed calling his trial ‘an extraordinary farce’, then agreed to revive Yameen’s image for £ 210,000 (MVR 4,128,292).
Back In 2012 too, right after the coup that toppled Nasheed’s government, another Labour Party member, former Labour Cabinet Minister and former attorney general Baroness Scotland took £ 75,000 (MVR 1,457,366) to advise the then government on avoiding action by Commonwealth in a two-week work contract.
On August 12, 2015, a few days before Yameen got Cherie on board, Adeeb broke a deal ‘Lord P’, who is a professional lobbyist and political adviser, to revamp the image of Yameen’s regime.
‘Lord P’ is no one else but the man who has not only been a Member of Parliament (MP) for Hartlepool for Labour Party but also held a number of Cabinet positions under Prime Ministers Tony Blair.
The man who rebuilt the Labour Party as New Labour before its subsequent victory in the 1997 election.
‘Lord P’ is Peter Mandelson – The Prince of Darkness.
A report by Daily Mail says that 62-year-old Mandelson held meetings with Adeeb and Yameen to counsel the government on how to “rebuild its public image”.
The British Daily quoting a four-page memo says that Mandelson’s strategic advisory firm Global Counsel suggested the government to deal with the PR crisis by projecting “your vision for the country’s future”.
The memo was dated August 18, four days after the meeting took place between Adeeb and Mandelson at the resort of Gili Lankanfushi.
Headlined as ‘Next Steps’, the memo asking to set up a strategic communication to fix the international image of the Maldives as quoted by Daily Mail read:
The taskforce will benefit from start-up training and development from an external source. This is something we could guide you on as part of our current work with international investors in the Maldives
It also offered to lobby United Nations General Assembly and Commonwealth by “telling an effective story about the Maldives to international audiences”. The advisory firm also said that it would get confidence of the international investors “everywhere from New York and London to Berlin, Paris and Beijing”.
The Memo By Global Counsel
The discussion in Gili Lankanfushi was very useful in scoping out the next steps. What follows in this note assumes that the situation regarding Nasheed can be resolved amicably from the perspective of all relevant stakeholders. The Maldives is a young democracy and recognises it has further to go in order to create the institutions and space to enable democracy to flourish… Reforms to the penal code and judicial system, as well as strengthening the rule of law, are prerequisites to a healthy democracy, and the government is in the process of designing and implementing reforms in these areas that will deliver immediate benefits as well as building the foundations for a stronger democracy in the longer term.
The firm suggested that government can rebuild its image by giving an ‘accurate account’ of the government’s ‘accomplishments’ in the fields of economic stewardship, social reform and environmental protection.
It is unclear if the two went ahead with the big revival plan as Adeeb – in less than two months – was jailed for plotting to assassinate his boss Yameen.
On October 13, when Ying Staton, Global Counsel’s ‘Asia Director’ wrote to Adeeb to figure out when Mandelson and Yameen could speak on phone, he was already in middle of speed boat blast allegations and days ahead only led to his impeachment, arrest and sentencing.
Flamboyant Adeeb, one of the richest politicians, also seen as Yameen’s loyal, also got implicated in one of the country’s biggest corruption scandal with Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).
An audit report of MMPRC revealed that money as huge as USD 80 million received from leasing islands and resorts meant for the state was siphoned off to private accounts which benefited Adeeb, Yameen, his wife and other politicians.
And it also benefitted Cherie Blair. Omnia had billed Abdulla Ziyath, former managing director of the MMPRC for £ 210,000 (MVR 4,081,265) – the half amount of total fee charged by the firm for a six-month contract.
According to Maldives Independent, government also spent USD 19,293 (MVR 297,510) on visits of Omnia’s barrister Toby Cadman, between June and September.
My work is not yet complete. My work will be completed once the airport and the country is the preferred destination. When my work is done, I want to compare the difference between the services given in the Maldives and Singapore, Dubai – Yameen
Omnia, on the allegation of receiving the money from a company implicated in corruption, said that it terminated six-month contract early due to unpredictable domestic events and is no longer instructed by either the government or the MMPRC.
The whistleblower, Bank of Maldives former manager Gasim Abdul Kareem, who leaked the account details of Score of Flairs (S.O.F) Private Limited which facilitated the transaction between MMPRC and Omnia is now in jail on the charges of unauthorised disclosure customer information.
Adeeb was sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing USD 5,000,000 (MVR 76,850,000) from state coffers besides 15 year jail term for plotting to assassinate Yameen.
Government also hired Washington based lobbyist firm, Podesta Group in September for a sum of USD 300,000 (MVR 4,611,000) and London-based PR firm BTP Advisers in November.
Even after massive PR exercise Yameen is now isolated by his party men. Though, he is often witnessed talking about economic development and policies as ambitious as making the Maldives the next Singapore and Dubai. At an event in May this year, Yameen said:
My work is not yet complete. My work will be completed once the airport and the country is the preferred destination. When my work is done, I want to compare the difference between the services given in the Maldives and Singapore, Dubai
Battered by its international image, Yameen-led government even launched a programme ‘Visit Maldives Year 2016’ to promote tourism and also enhanced their budget but soon abandoned the ambitious 1.5 million tourist target this year alleging opposition of tarnishing the image of the country.
The government functioning on PR machinery of the west in a bid to revive the image of the country often blames opposition and its leader Nasheed for destroying country’s economy, ironically, calling them the agents of the west. Meanwhile, Nasheed continue to enjoy the support of international rights’ group, journalists and rival of the Labour Party, Conservative Party’s former leader and former Prime Minister David Cameron.