November 28, 2019 / 10:43 AM / 10 days ago

Maldives ex-president sentenced to five years for money laundering

FILE PHOTO: Maldives President Abdulla Yameen attends a signing meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China December 7, 2017. Fred Dufour/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

MALE (Reuters) - Former Maldives president Abdulla Yameen was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for money laundering on Thursday - as dozens of his supporters gathered outside the courtroom saying his was innocent.

Yameen, who ran the Maldives with an iron hand for five years, unexpectedly lost an election last year and has since faced investigations over a number of deals sealed during his tenure.

He was accused of receiving $1 million of government money through a private company as part of a deal to lease a number of tropical islands for hotel development - charges he has repeatedly dismissed.

Judge Ali Rasheed, who headed a panel of five judges trying the case, told the criminal court it had been established beyond any reasonable doubt that Yameen had taken money that he knew was embezzled from the state.

“The judges took over 10 days to deliberate on this and this is the unanimous verdict of the five judges,” Rasheed said.

Yameen drew the Indian Ocean island country closer to China during his tenure from 2013-2018. Opposition critics accused him of giving contracts, including a major bridge and an extension to the international airport, to Chinese companies at inflated prices. He denied any wrongdoing.

Reporting by Mohamed Junayd; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Alex Richardson and Andrew Heavens

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