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Maldives Investment Forum 2016 Becomes ‘Hail Yameen’ Conference

in News/Politics by

The third edition of Maldives Investment Forum was all praise of President Abdulla Yameen by his cabinet ministers – Vice President Abdulla Jihad and Economic Development Minister Mohamed Saeed – as they tried to garner the interest of investors in the Indian capital New Delhi on Tuesday.

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The annual forum to tap the potential of the Maldives’ tourism and infrastructure sector in the international market was started under the presidency of Abdulla Yameen in 2014 in Singapore followed by Beijing in 2015.

Here are top 5 mentions of President Abdulla Yameen at the high-profile investment forum:

  • GDP has grown with double digit under the leadership of President Yameen in last three years
  • We have seen the trust for President Yameen’s economic policies. We are seeing the results of our efforts
  • Far-sighted policies of President Yameen has narrowed down fiscal deficit in the country
  • President Yameen has eased monetary policies leading to increased credit availability for the private sector and have lowered inflation
  • President Yameen’s government promotes a transparent, hassle-free and liberal trading and investment environment and believes in strong, predictable and transparent commercial regime is critical for private sector led growth

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.’

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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.

Tourists’ Paradise, Maldivians’ Inferno: Chilling Truth Of Sex, Divorces And Covert Abortions In Maldives

in News/Politics by

The Indian Ocean archipelago, a paradise for tourists, overshadowed by its continuing political turmoil also has heart wrenching ground realities. Maldives, the same paradise island when opens the door to the regular people living in the congested capital Male, the inferno awaits.

In a report published by Vice from the first hand investigative account of the JJ Robinson, the first editor of Maldives’ first independent English language news service, spill the counter narrative of ruthless conditions in which Maldivians are surviving.

According to the JJ Robinson’s book ‘‘Maldives: Islamic Republic, Tropical Autocracy’, Maldives which offers zero intrusion in the private affairs of its tourists, has drug abuse, Islamic radicalisation and violent crimes ladled out for its own citizens.

The capital city Male, which is also the political centre of the island, has more than more than half the population residing with banned alcohol and limited entertainment. However, a bottle of vodka, costing up to $140 USD in the black market and brown sugar heroin reaches ‘faster than a pizza’, Robinson writes in the book.

Islamic Nationalism, Sex Crimes And Divorces

The country’s constitution which mandates 100 per cent population to be Muslim is enforced by not only by the authorities but also due to the threat of social ostracism. “Tourists on romantic resort getaways blissfully sun themselves on beaches a few hundred feet from ‘local’ islands where Maldivian women are routinely sentenced to 100 lashes for the crime of extramarital sex,” he writes.

He also highlights the how the country exploiting Islamic nationalism and sentiments of defending Islam from other religions are paving way for inhuman practices like criminalisation of extramarital sex leading to higher divorce rate.

Citing the observation by the famous Islamic explorer Ibn Battuta, the book underlines the complex issue owing to conservative ideas and culture being adapted by the people. “It is easy to marry in these islands because of the smallness of the dowries and the pleasures of society which the women offer,” Battuta wrote in the 14th century.

“Most people do not even fix any dowry. When the ships put in, the crew marry; when they intend to leave, they divorce their wives. This is a kind of temporary marriage (muta). I have seen nowhere in the world women whose society was more pleasant.”

The weddings are done in few minutes by just exchanging rings and a token dowry while the divorce owes to patriarchal laws allowing mean to follow triple talaq Islamic law (I divorce you- three times), but a woman has to go through court proceedings. Interestingly, there’s no social taboo associated with a divorced woman. “I recall one recently married fisherman boasting that his new wife had been married six times; this, he explained with a sly wink, meant she was experienced. The figure was about average for a woman in her forties,” Robbinson writes.

Clothing Shops to Sex Shops

While, in normal societal terms, a woman is under pressure to wear headscarf also gets the liberty to wear rather revealing western cloths, easily available in clothing shops in the capital, however not for long.

“16-year-old girl who bought and actually wore one of these in 2013 was swiftly taken into custody under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act.” He explains how the girl was not only directed her how to dress but also involved her parents.

And, even when Male had a sex shop, the trouble was in the name ‘G-spot’. The Ministry of Economic Development kept insisting how the G stood for Girl eventually leading to a ruling by civil court alleging the name “inappropriate for viewing by women and children,” while Nizam, the owner of the shop kept defending that the G-Spot did not exist.

The Not So Curious Case of Covert Abortions

According to the report, Maldives has highest number of unprotected sex and high promiscuity. The problem becomes complex when stigma surrounding divorce is negligible but an out-of-wedlock child is a symbol of shame. “As long as the illusion of Islamic conservatism was maintained, as long as the boat wasn’t rocked, as long as nothing was stated, written down, admitted, or confessed to, as long as you weren’t caught—ordinary people could be surprisingly accepting,” Robinson states.

He also complies several incidents of barbaric abortions in which either a mother ends up throwing the foetus in a swimming pool, bushes or a bucket. These abortions are often covert because getting caught may lead to even death sentence.

“Abortion was an issue that should concern all Maldivians, the party (Adhaalath Party) declared, and people should be “very afraid” given the “rising popularity of fornication.

Afraid they were. Most often the mothers were caught, quickly confessing under police interrogation,” Robinson writes.

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