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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.

Maldives Investment Forum 2016 Becomes ‘Hail Yameen’ Conference

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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

Why Trump’s Win Could Be A Good Thing For Maldives?

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trump


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.

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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.

podestaPodesta, 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.

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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 Yameen and his associates

The secretly filmed interviews describe how on mopeds carried millions in cash to the and his aides with some funds amounting to as large as $1.5 billion.

President Yameen Apologises For MMPRC Scam; Opposition Says Not Enough

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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.

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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.

Former Foreign Minister of the Maldives and current shadow cabinet minister for MUO Ahmed Naseem said he would never forgive President Yameen for the theft.

Others, too, criticised him for just issuing an apology on the scam.

Human Rights Lawyer Nazim Sattar Suspended From Criminal Court For Criticising Judiciary

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Well-known human rights lawyer and brother of former President Mohamed Nasheed Nazim Abdul Sattar has been suspended by the criminal court from six months on the charges of insulting the judges and inciting hatred against judiciary.


Nazim has been banned from representing clients for six months until April 6, 2017 by the criminal court’s chief justice Abdul Bari Yoosuf.

Nazim’s suspension came after he accused a criminal court judge of denying legal representation to one of his clients in a complaint.

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According to Maldives Independent, criminal court judge Ibrahim Ali had ruled that one of Nazim’s client will be kept in police custody until the trial concluded without notifying him.

Nazim called his suspension “yet another assault on free speech,” and added, ““This is deeply concerning. It will hard for my clients to find lawyers who will work pro bono.”

The suspension, however, does not bar Nazim from representing clients in other courts.

Nazim was also representing whistleblower Gasim Ibrahim, former Bank of Maldives manager, who exposed how money meant for state coffers was allegedly siphoned off to personal accounts, currently under trial on the charges of leaking personal bank account details of his client.

Meanwhile, the main opposition party Maldivian Democratic Party expressed concern on his suspension.

This is not first time when a lawyer has been suspended from courts. In November 2015, former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb’s lawyer was suspended and a criminal inquiry against him was ordered following which he fled the country.

What ‘The Dark Lord’ Advised Yameen’s Regime To Keep ‘Sunny Side of Life’ Image Intact

in Investigation/Politics by

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.

Adeeb's gold iPhone as shown in Al Jazeera's documentary Stealing Paradise
Adeeb’s gold iPhone as shown in Al Jazeera’s documentary Stealing Paradise

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.

lord-p


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.

yameen-adeeb


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.

cherie-1


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.

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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.

Adeeb Questioned In Connection To Stealing Paradise By Anti-Corruption Commission

in Mas-Huni Brief by

Stealing Paradise that took the Maldives by storm recently for exposing how on mopeds carried millions in cash to the and his aides with some funds amounting to as large as $1.5 billion is now being seriously investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) following criticism from Commonwealth last week.

adeeb-with-police


ACC has questioned former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb in connection to the allegations made against him in the documentary.

Sun Online quoting sources said that ACC questioned Adeeb on Thursday.

ACC inquiry was in relation to allegations made by  former footballer Mohamed Hussain in the documentary who said that large sums of monies were delivered to President Abdulla Yameen on Adeeb’s instruction.

The documentary had claimed that the corruption of millions of dollars had involvement of  President Abdulla investigating 10GB of data uncovered from the two iPhones of former Vice President

Recently, the Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) in its report to Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) mentioned the documentary questioning the involvement of President Yameen and the high-level corruption that took place.

However, government had outrightly denied any wrongdoing and said asked for evidence proving that President Yameen or current members of his government were involved.

MDP To Join All Party Talks

in Mas-Huni Brief by

The main-opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which has been refusing to indulge in all party talks in the past demanding release of former President Mohamed Nasheed and other political prisoners, has now agreed to engage dialouge with government on current political crisis after Commonwealth’s appeal.

mdp


  • MDP’s national council decided to heed Commonwealth’s call to engage in dialogue
  • MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz proposed a resolution for the party’s leadership to assign representatives for talks
  • MDP will seek the release of Nasheed and other jailed politicians during the talks
  • The party called on the government to “immediately engage” in political dialogue with all stakeholders
  • Government has asked MDP and its ally Adhaalath Party to send details of its representatives

On the decision to engage in talks, Shifaz said,

This is not a step backwards. The MDP will seek the release of Nasheed and other jailed politicians during the talks, which should proceed with international mediators

Read full report at Maldives Independent

Maldives Faces Threat Of Suspension From Commonwealth, Now On Formal Agenda By CMAG

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The Commonwealth in its 49th meeting on Tuesday in New York on the sidelines of the 27th United Nations General Assembly concluded that the group is “deeply disappointed in lack of progress in the Maldives and now on a formal agenda and threat of suspension in March.”

In a two-page report, the CMAG expressed deep disappointment in lack of progress in the priority areas identified in April this year and said,

Ministers expressed deep concern over lack of progress in the progress areas that they earlier identified, and therefore placed Maldives on CMAG’s formal agenda. Ministers agreed that in the absence of substantive progress across the priority areas, the group would consider its options, including suspension from the Council of the Commonwealth, at its next meeting in March next year.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Asim and Attorney General Mohamed Anil were also present in the meeting.

The group also asked that both government and opposition to hold dialogue and underlined that the it should be done with full participation and without pre-condition.

The group also addressed the issue of Presidential election due in 2018 and assured a conductive environment for “credible and inclusive” election.

The meeting was held after the review of the situation in the Maldives last week by the human rights wing of the Commonwealth, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), which in its report to the CMAG, asked suspension of the Maldives from the group concluding that the island nation is sliding to dictatorship and if the situation continues it will be on the “brink of violence and anarchy.”

CHRI expressed grave concern on government failing to comply with the six-point agenda and said, “These actions not only signal the government’s unwillingness to initiate political dialogue, but also indicate that the government is taking steps to actively impede and obstruct any kind of political dialogue. There is clearly no intention on the part of the government to find a political solution.”

Besides, a critical report on the “dictatorial” functioning of the government, CHRI also gave legitimacy to the most important developments that are most likely to help in the expected ouster of President Abdulla Yameen.


Here’s All You Need To Know About The CHRI Report


Maldives United Opposition (MUO)

MUO 1 (3)


The CHRI said in its report that it was the formation of the rainbow coalition Maldives United Opposition (MUO), a united coalition of the previous rivals against President Yameen that showed his unpopularity among his former allies.

“MUO brings together former allies of President Yameen, such as the Adhaalath Party and jailed Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, together with the largest political party, the Maldives Democratic Party, is a sign of growing unpopularity of the present administration,” the report said.

Stealing Paradise By Al Jazeera

stealing paradise


The group also acknowledged the allegations of corruption on President Yameen by Al Jazeera and criticised the government for not initiating any concrete investigations into the cases.

“(We) express concern about the mounting allegations of corruption against officials at the highest political level. The release of “Stealing Paradise”, a documentary by Qatar based Al Jazeera reveals the involvement of President Yameen and his deputies in massive theft and money laundering,” the report said.
“The government has not shown any inclination to investigate these very serious allegations and bring the perpetrators to account. The total lack of accountability combined with the rollback of constitutional rights and democratic norms has led to deep frustration and disillusionment among the people of the Maldives,” it added.

The 2018 Presidential Election

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The CHRI concluded that if the current scenario continues, the Maldives will not have free and fair Presidential elections due in 2018 and called for a “firm action” by the Commonwealth.

“CHRI strongly believes that the current environment is not at all conducive to free and fair presidential elections due in 2018. In fact, the nation is sliding into a dictatorial system once again. CHRI is worried that, if allowed to continue, the situation will soon push the island nation into the brink of violence and anarchy.”

The Recommendations

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In the strongly worded report, the CHRI asked Commonwealth to “suspend”, “exclude” and “halt” the current government.

“SUSPEND Maldives from the Councils of the Commonwealth, which will EXCLUDE the government of the Maldives from all Commonwealth inter government meetings and events, including ministerial meetings and CHOGM; HALT all Commonwealth technical assistance, other than the mandate of the Special Envoy.”

Al Jazeera Tells How To ‘Sell Island Nation In 4 Easy Steps’ In A Sarcastic Video

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Al Jazeera created a political furor with its documentary ‘Stealing Paradise’ in which the secretly filmed interviews describe how on mopeds carried millions in cash to the President and his aides with some funds amounting to as large as $1.5 billion.

al-jajeera


The documentary that claimed that the corruption of millions of dollars had involvement of  President Abdulla Yameen was first banned, then defamation threats were issued to anyone in the Maldives broadcasting it, following which the Doha-based news organisation released it on their YouTube channel.

A series of articles were also written describing the corruption that took place in the Maldives- an investigation that was done on the basis of the 10GB of data uncovered from the two iPhones of former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb.

Recently, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) in its report to Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) mentioned the documentary questioning the involvement of President Yameen and the high-level corruption that took place.

Following the report, which also slammed that government for not taking enough measures to initiate probe into the embezzlement of billions of money, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) launched a fresh inquiry into the expose.

However, government had outrightly denied any wrongdoing and said asked for evidence proving that President Yameen or current members of his government were involved.

Though, the Doha-based Al Jazeera continues to promote the documentary and this time, taking a sarcastic dig at the government, they released a promo video that tells you how to sell the island nation in four easy steps. And, they are:

  1. Become Tourism Minister (This is the difficult bit)
  2. Divert lease payment cheques from state coffers to a friend’s account
  3. Cash out and spend (But save some bribes)
  4. If the Auditor General starts snooping around, (the then) VP Ahmed Adeeb asks police to shut him down

WATCH:

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