High court orders MHR trading to return funds taken from MMPRC

High Court of the Maldives has ordered MHR Trading Private Limited to return USD 50,000 which was taken from Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC). The High Court made the decision after it found that the funds meant for MMPRC were transferred to a bank account of MHR Trading, which is a company owned by the family of former Managing Director of MMPRC Abdulla Ziyath.

The High Court has determined that HMHI Company Private Limited had given a cheque of USD 50,000 to MMPRC to lease Fushidhihgaa, Alifu Dhaalu Atoll, for resort development but the funds were transferred to the account of MHR Trading, which is owned by Ziyath's uncle. During the court proceedings, Ziyath said he was unaware that the cheque had the name of MHR Trading as the payee and that he did not recall ever receiving the cheque.

Ministry of Tourism first submitted the case to the Civil Court of the Maldives, which ruled that the company has no legal reason for returning the funds to the state.

After the case was appealed, the High Court reversed the lower court's decision after determining that HMHI Company had deposited USD 50,000 meant for the state, to a bank account at the State Bank of India (SBI), which was owned by MHR Trading. The court also determined that the HMHI Company had given the cheque without specifying the account payee, which allowed the cheque to be deposited to a bank account not owned by MMPRC. Therefore, the High Court ordered MHR Trading to return the funds to the state within 30 days.

The High Court ruling was the first time a decision was made to return funds embezzled from MMPRC, which totals USD 220 million.

Former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb and Ziyath are currently serving prison sentences after being found guilty of embezzlement of state funds.