A court in the Maldives has frozen bank accounts owned by former President Abdulla Yameen, two sources told Al Jazeera on Friday, as part of an investigation into allegations of financial fraud.
Yameen, who suffered a decisive defeat in a presidential election in September, has also been summoned to the police headquarters on Saturday, according to officials.
He is expected to be questioned over allegations that he received 22 million rufiyaa ($1.5 m) in cash as campaign funds days ahead of the contentious vote, said Ahmed Nihan, a senior legislator from the former president’s party.
Yameen’s accounts at the national Bank of Maldives and the privately-owned Maldives Islamic Bank were frozen over the same case, a senior official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Al Jazeera.
In September, the Financial Intelligence Unit, an anti-money laundering body, sent a classified letter to the police, suggesting the transactions from the former president’s accounts violate Maldives’ elections laws, which require candidates to set up separate accounts for and declare the source of campaign funds.
The police declined to comment on the freeze on Yameen’s accounts.
But spokesperson Ahmed Shifan said the police were “investigating allegations forwarded by state institutions that former President Abdulla Yameen conducted illicit financial transactions while he was president”.
‘No reasons for my arrest’
Nihan, the former president’s associate, confirmed the freeze on Yameen’s accounts.
“President Yameen told us he expects to be questioned, arrested and even jailed, but he says there is no truth to any of the claims against him,” said Nihan.
Earlier this month, the 59-year-old opposition leader denied any wrongdoing while in office and told reporters there was “no reasons at all” for his arrest.
Associates of Yameen, who unsuccessfully tried to annul the results of September’s election, have previously blamed his defeat to opposition candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, in the September 23 poll on “relentless accusations of theft”.
Solih took office in November, vowing to end systematic corruption and investigate allegations of human rights abuses under Yameen. The new president has since set up two powerful commissions to probe such cases, saying the Maldives could not move forward without justice for past abuses.
The most serious of the allegations against Yameen include claims he oversaw the country’s biggest-ever corruption scandal, in which at least $79m from tourism revenues was diverted to private accounts and cashed out.
The scheme, which involved the state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), was the subject of the 2016 Al Jazeera investigation Stealing Paradise.
Associates of the former president, in secretly filmed interviews, said they delivered some of the stolen cash to his residence in black bags.
Yameen is also accused of receiving at least $1m of the embezzled money into his private account at the Maldives Islamic Bank.
The Anti Corruption Commission has confirmed that Yameen received that money, but said it shelved the investigation because it could not reach the person who deposited the cash.
Yameen, who rejects all allegations of corruption, blamed his former deputy, Ahmed Adeeb, for the theft from the MMPRC.
In an interview on national television in September, Yameen also blamed the central bank and commercial banks for the MMPRC scandal, saying staff there did not raise red flags when tens of millions of dollars in public money was diverted to private accounts.