The real reason behind Emergency in Maldives - $30 million bribe to SC judges

The Maldivian government is expected to go public soon about the bribes after which the emergency is likely to be lifted.

 |  6-minute read |   09-02-2018
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The reason behind the February 5 imposition of a state of emergency for 15 days in Maldives by President Abdulla Yameen was not because of the India factor per se. Rather it was a call taken by the president in response to his face-off with the country's Supreme Court (after it overturned criminal convictions against nine of Yameen's opponents and ordered him to free those in jail).

More precisely, the Yameen government had specific intelligence that two SC judges, chief justice Abdulla Saeed and Justice Ali Hameed, had allegedly taken hefty bribes.

Maldivian sources familiar with inside details that made the Yameen government take the unprecedented decision of imposing Emergency told this writer that the government had credible information that the two above-named judges had as much as $30 million in their accounts, $15 million each. This money was paid into their accounts in Malaysia.

Top officials of the government have been talking about the issue of SC judges accepting bribe, though no figure has been disclosed. It is believed Malaysian intelligence picked up the details of this transaction and passed on this information to the Maldivian government. (Malaysia and Maldives, both Muslim countries, have very close relationship.) 

The Yameen government's first suspicion was that the bribery was perhaps facilitated by the main Opposition party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), while the money was made available by India. However, further investigations by the Maldivian government could not get evidence of the involvement of either - the MDP as the facilitator and India as the funder.

maldives_020918024440.jpgOpposition supporters protest against the Yameen government in Male on February 4. (Credit: Reuters photo)

Soon enough, the Maldivian government’s investigations revealed the hand of non-MDP opposition parties. That explains the arrest of former president Abdul Gayoom, Yameen's half-brother and an ally-turned-political-rival. The funder of this $30 million is still not found out by the Maldivian government, but now their suspicion is hovering on some European nations.

The ramifications of this bribery scandal involving the apex court were so huge that the Yameen government wanted to get into the core of the matter, and to do this, it had to quieten the Supreme Court. This, as per Yameen government, necessitated harsh measures like going after the apex court. Imposition of national Emergency was to deal with the apex court, as per the Yameen government’s scheme of things.

The Maldivian government is expected to go public soon about the bribes paid to the two apex court judges. This should happen in the next few days after which the Emergency is likely to be lifted, maybe even before the 15-day period is completed.

The Yameen government is going to disclose the bribery amount soon and will come up with figures it can prove in court. The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has now suspended two SC judges on charges of corruption on February 8, paving the way for the case to be tried in a court. That means Majlis majority isn’t required to dismiss these two judges of the SC.

The JSC is a body charged with judicial appointments and investigation of indiscipline and corruption within the judiciary. This body has judges from lower courts, high court and Supreme Court sitting on it, as well as the attorney general and a representative of bar association and elected representative of the Majlis.

Yameen ready to take on the world

India has snubbed the Yameen government by saying no to hosting the president's special envoy for explaining the circumstances of imposition of Emergency in Maldives, which wanted to make India the first port of call ahead of other countries like Saudi Arabia, China and Pakistan. India refused to host Yameen’s special envoy at this point of time as external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj was in Saudi Arabia and PM Narendra Modi was scheduled to embark on a tour of Oman, Palestine and the UAE. However, if India wanted, any of the senior cabinet ministers or one of the two ministers of state in external affairs ministry or the national security adviser could have met the Maldivian presidential envoy.

As far as some ambassadors of the European Union (EU) are concerned, there is a widespread belief in Maldivian government circles that these ambassadors have crossed all diplomatic decency and are also involved in the recent judicial coup mentioned above. The Yameen government is specially peeved with American, German and British ambassadors, and is of opinion that these ambassadors have crossed all limits and parameters of diplomatic decency between sovereign states and ambassadors.

The Yameen government is willing to face any sanctions that the EU or anybody else might impose. The Yameen government, it seems, now believes it has had enough of powerful foreign countries meddling in its domestic politics and trying to engineer a regime change one way or the other. The Yameen government believes that EU and American ambassadors are the very people who tried to use every means to bring about a regime change with help of the Opposition in Maldives.

Indian sanctions on Maldives

The Indian displeasure with the Yameen government may manifest itself in the form of economic sanctions against Maldives, but the Yameen government isn’t overtly worried. It can find alternative sources to import. For instance, medical treatment in Thailand isn’t more expensive than India anymore. So, it can divert state-funded medical treatment from India to Thailand..

India has already stopped issuing dependent visa to parents of thousands of children from Maldives studying in India. So, in future most students will be forced to go to Malaysia instead of India. Not that India has to worry as Maldives’ trade with India reflects a fraction of its transactions with the rest of the world.

Having said that, the ongoing Maldivian political drama is set to throw several more surprises in the coming days.

Also read: Dear Modi, this is why Andhra Pradesh loves you



Rajeev Sharma Rajeev Sharma @kishkindha

The writer is an independent journalist and a strategic analyst.

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