Abdulla Ziyath, former Managing Director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), has been handed an additional 12-year prison sentence by the Criminal Court for financial malfeasance. 

Ziyath is already under house arrest, serving an eight-year sentence related to a previous convictions against him in the MMPRC graft case – the biggest financial scandal in the country’s recent history.

The court heard that Ziyath faced a total of 32 charges, of which three major counts of embezzlement were deliberated. Each count carries a four-year prison term, leading to the additional 12-year sentence. 

The proceedings revealed that Ziyath had agreed to a plea deal, acknowledging the charges and voluntarily aiding in the investigation and subsequent efforts to recover the misappropriated funds.

The plea agreement secured with the Prosecutor General’s Office stipulates various provisions:

  • Escalation of Ziyath’s sentence by four degrees above the basic standard.
  • A reduction in the punishment by three degrees due to his cooperation in the investigation and trial.
  • Ziyath’s commitment to assist in all administrative or civil actions aimed at recovering any assets involved in the corruption scandal.

The specific charges against Ziyath include the following:

  • Embezzling MVR 2.3 million from Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) under the guise of purchasing foreign currency.
  • Misappropriation of US$6.8 million from MMPRC’s dollar account by disbursing loans to various private companies.
  • Obtaining a US$1 million loan from the Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) and subsequently funnelling the funds to a private company.

Ziyath’s conviction highlights the scope and scale of the MMPRC graft scandal, which involves money laundering from the sale of islands and lagoons leased for tourism development. Former President Abudulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and his Vice President (and Tourism Minister) are also facing multiple convictions in the scandal. 

Given Ziyath’s willingness to cooperate under the plea agreement, authorities are hopeful for progress in recovering the funds siphoned off through these illicit activities.