The Civil Court has dismissed the state’s civil suit against former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, which sought to enforce the US$3.4 million fine imposed on him by the Criminal Court for a money laundering conviction.

On 25 December 2022, Yameen, who is the leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), was convicted of money laundering and accepting bribes. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of US$5 million. The fine included US$3.4 million for money laundering and US$1.6 million for bribery. The Criminal Court had ordered the payment of the US$3.4 million related to the money laundering conviction within six months, a deadline that expired in June this year without Yameen making the payment.

As Yameen failed to comply with the payment order, the Attorney General’s Office took legal action on behalf of the state, filing a case with the Civil Court to secure the funds. However, the Civil Court, presided by Judge Abdulla Ihasan, concluded that it could not enforce the order because the High Court had granted a stay of execution on the fine. The court ruling pointed out that the High Court had ordered that neither Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) nor any other state agency, including the lower courts, should take action to recover the fine until the High Court concludes Yameen’s appeal.

The Civil Procedures Code states that the enforcement of a judgement or part of a judgement of a lower court or tribunal or the High Court can only be stayed if a higher court orders the stay of enforcement of the judgement or part of the judgement, the ruling said, further explaining that the Civil Court does not see any point in continuing court proceedings as the prosecution will have the opportunity to appeal against the enforcement of the judgement once the High Court reaches a decision.

The former president has contested both the verdict and the fine, obtaining a stay of execution from the High Court for the fine, but not for the prison sentence. The state has opted not to appeal the stay of execution on the fine, and thus, the appeal regarding his conviction remains pending, with no clear indication as to when the High Court will finalise the matter.

Yameen, who had been serving his prison sentence at Maafushi prison, was transferred to house arrest after Dr Mohamed Muizzu, the presidential candidate for PPM-PNC, claimed victory in the presidential election. His house arrest conditions have seen a significant relaxation since then, much to the chagrin of his detractors who cite unequal enforcement of the law.

As the former president faces ongoing legal challenges and an appeal against his sentence continues at the High Court, the unfolding events continue to fuel the debate over the treatment of high-profile figures within the Maldivian justice system. Public opinion, particularly across social media, suggests growing frustration over perceived disparities in the handling of cases involving influential personalities, even those with grave criminal convictions.

Additional reporting by Ibrahim H. Shihab