Maldives ex-president Yameen sentenced to five years in prison

Former Maldives President Abdulla Yameen has been found guilty of laundering over US$1 million deposited to his bank account by a company that was used to channel resort acquisition fees stolen during his administration, the Maldives Independent reported.

While in office, Yameen invested the money despite reasonable grounds to suspect that it was ill-gotten and violated an agreement signed with the Anti-Corruption Commission to hold the US$1 million in an escrow account, a five-judge panel ruled unanimously.

The 60-year-old opposition leader was fined US$5 million and sentenced to five years in prison, the minimum jail term stipulated in the 2014 anti-money laundering law.

A new bench was empanelled to hear the case after Judge Ahmed Hailam was suspended hours before he was due to pass a verdict on November 5.

Led by former ministers and lawmakers, opposition supporters protested behind police barricades near the criminal court as the sentencing hearing took place. Protesters carried placards condemning the trial as politically motivated and accusing the government of “hijacking” the judiciary.

Speaking at a gathering outside the Progressive Party of Maldives office on Wednesday night, Yameen warned supporters to beware of “vultures” who might take over the opposition coalition if he is sent to prison

“If I am not here, don’t let vultures straddle my party. That’s not something that should be allowed at all,” he appealed.