October 18, 2018 / 10:33 AM / a month ago

Vote-winning Maldives party seeks travel ban on President Yameen

MALE (Reuters) - The party of the incoming president of the Maldives has urged police to impose a travel ban on outgoing President Abdulla Yameen so he can face investigations in connection with graft cases that the party aims to launch.

FILE PHOTO: Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen speaks as he gives a statement at President office in Male, Maldives September 24, 2018. President Media//Handout via REUTERS

Opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih won a surprise presidential election victory on Sept. 23 and Yameen is due to hand over power on Nov. 17, even though he had petitioned the Supreme Court challenging his election defeat.

Yameen said on Wednesday he was preparing to step down.

The chairman of Solih’s Maldives Democratic Party, Hassan Latheef, said Yameen would face inquiries related to the suspected misappropriation of funds at a state-owned agency that promotes the leasing of islands for resort development, in the first of several cases.

“A travel ban against President Yameen must be instituted. There are several cases pending investigation including cases of corruption,” he told reporters after filing a petition before the police.

A police spokesman declined to comment, saying it was not the practice to say anything on such pending matters.

Yameen said in a speech on Wednesday he had done nothing wrong and had acted in the best interests of the country during his term as president.

The Maldives, a string of palm-fringed islands and atolls 325 miles (523 km) southwest of the southern tip of India, is best known as a luxury holiday destination.

But the Muslim nation of less than half a million people has suffered a turbulent transition to democracy following the end of three decades of authoritarian rule in 2008.

Its latest phase of turmoil began in February when Yameen imposed a state of emergency and several ministers and judges were detained on charges ranging from corruption to terrorism.

The islands have become more significant in recent years for both China and India as they seek to extend their influence over important Indian Ocean shipping lanes.

Solih had won the election on the promise of cleaning up corruption and would pursue cases vigorously, Latheef said.

Reporting by Mohamed Junayd; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Robert Birsel

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