Former Maldivian President Summoned Over Money Laundering Investigation, Possible Ties to Accusations of China’s Earlier Debt Trap Diplomacy
Significant controversy emerged during the presidency of Abdulla Yameen (2013 to 2018) concerning his acceptance of large-scale Chinese financing and the strengthening of ties that occurred between China and the Maldives during that timeframe. Yameen’s acceptance of China’s economic and financial overtures led to allegations of corruption and fear that the country’s new borrowing from China made the country vulnerable to Chinese leverage, putting the country into a “debt trap” and threatening the country’s sovereignty.
Ultimately, Yameen was ousted by current president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, a notably pro-India candidate from the Maldivian Democratic Party. On December 16, 2018, the High Court of the Maldives seized $6.5 million in the former president’s assets, and, on February 6, 2019, he was charged with theft, money laundering, and giving false statements to police.
Most recently, on February 28, 2020, former President Yameen was summoned by the Maldives Police Service for questioning over a $90.4 money laundering investigation linked to a resort development project. Although unconfirmed, there are rumors that the project in question is the $127.5 million Olhuveli Resort, contracted to China Communications Construction Corporation in 2016. The Maldivian government intends to publish a report by June on Chinese corruption in the country under Yameen’s leadership.