MALE: A Maldivian court Sunday ordered the authorities to lift a freeze on former strongman president Abdulla Yameen’s bank accounts holding about US$6.5 million but said a money laundering case against him would proceed.
The High Court overturned the Criminal Court’s earlier decision to freeze the eight accounts over allegations that Yameen had received illicit payments just before he lost his re-election bid in September.
Yameen, who came to power in 2013 and jailed many of his opponents or forced them into exile, was arrested last month on a charge of trying to bribe witnesses in his money laundering trial, but was released from custody on Thursday.
The move came ahead of April 6 parliamentary elections contested by his Progressive Party of Maldives.
Since Yameen’s shock election defeat, all dissidents have returned to the Indian Ocean archipelago and most have had their convictions overturned.
During his five-year tenure, Yameen relied heavily on China for political and financial support as he came under international criticism over his dismal human rights record.
The nation of 340,000 Sunni Muslims is now heavily in debt to Beijing.
Authorities believe millions of dollars allegedly siphoned off by Yameen could be stashed abroad, and have said that talks are underway with foreign entities to repatriate any cash found.
Yameen’s chief lawyer and former justice minister Azima Shakoor is also facing charges of embezzlement and helping her boss to launder money.
The Maldives was on the verge of being slapped with Western-led sanctions before opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won an unexpected landslide in last year’s election, campaigning on a pledge to end corruption in the country otherwise known for its luxury tourism.