It has come to light that Affan Abdus-Sattar, Defence Minister Mariya Didi's son, owns a house currently worth GBP1.53million (MVR31 million) in one of London's most expensive neighbourhoods.
Dhiyares, the sister-newspaper of The Maldives Journal, had received this information from a British private investigative agency. This is part of a investigation launched by Dhiyares to uncover property and assets in foreign countries owned by Maldivian government officials.
Who Is Affan?
Affan Abdus-Sattar is Defence Minister Mariya Didi's eldest son, his father is Abdus-Sattar Ali. Ali had masterminded the embezzlement of the former Fisheries Projects Implementation Department (FPID), the largest corruption scandal in Maldivian history. Ali is also the older brother of MP Mohamed Falah (MDP-Maafannu West). Ali is a benefactor of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
The FPID scandal involved the embezzlement of USD380 million from public money. Adjusted for inflation, this value is approximately USD810million.
Since the FPID scandal, Ali had chosen to spend most of his time in the United Kingdom. Affan, likewise, resides in the United Kingdom and is a British citizen.
Affan's Properties and Businesses In Britain
The documents procured by Dhiyares show the Affan owns two properties in the United Kingdom. One of the properties is a 700 square foot five-room house in Lambeth, which he had purchased for GBP735,000 in 2010 at the age of 29. This is one of the most expensive properties in that neighbourhood, and its price has risen since then.
Mariya Didi and her family stay at this property during their visits to the United Kingdom.
The other property registered under Affan's name is located in Stoke-on-Trent, 158 miles away from London. Affan's businesses are registered at this address. The house, which had been bought for GBP29,000 is now worth GBP103,000 (MVR2 million).
Affan's businesses registered at this address are:
1. 15 Temple Road Management Company Limited,
2. Affan Sattar Limited
Both companies are engaged in London's real-estate business. Although 15 Temple Road Manage Company Limited had been registered on 15 November 2013, Affan had only joined its board of directors on 5 October 2015 and the company's address was changed to Affan's house in Stoke-on-Trent. It appears that Affan had bought the company.
Affan Sattar Limited was registered on 10 February 2021.
Real Estate Activities
The investigation by the agency commissioned by Dhiyares to trace Defence Minister Mariya's and her family's assets in the United Kingdom showed that properties registered under Affan's name had been bought and sold in the past, as well. Given Affan's young age at which the real-estate sales had taken place, it appears highly unlikely that he had raised capital for these sales by his own work. Some of these transactions had gone through companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.
Naushad Waheed, Deputy Ambassador of the Maldives to the United Kingdom, had confirmed that Affan was the owner of several properties in the United Kingdom.
The investigative agency commissioned by Dhiyares had opined that Affan's real estate business may very likely be a front for a money-laundering operation.
"Buying up luxury houses in Britain with dirty money is a common money-laundering practice", the private investigator told Dhiyares. "The National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Report released by the National Crime Agency in 2020 shows that the British property market is a 'favourite' for money-launderers".
They said that the reason the property market was favoured was because large sums of money could be used in buying up properties, and because the price of properties rise over time.
Money-launderers often set up real-estate companies and leased out properties to others, they said.
It is worth noting that the year Affan had bought his current house was the year that former President Mohamed Nasheed signed off on letting the GMR Group take over Male's international airport. Mariya Didi had then been the MDP's chairperson. At the time, there had been rumours that the GMR Group had bribed MDP's high officials with millions of dollars.
Affan's second company was registered 10 days prior to the signing of the controversial Uthuru-Thila Falhu agreement with India. Defence Minister Mariya Didi and Major General Abdullah Shamal, the Chief of Defence Force, had both been accused of taking bribes prior to the signing.
Mariya's Family Business
In addition to Affan's businesses in the United Kingdom, he also has business interests in the Maldives. The business, Dhonhiyala Pvt Ltd, is co-owned by Affan, his mother Defence Minister Mariya, and his step-father Mohamed Amir.
57% of Dhonhiyala Pvt Ltd is owned by Mariya Didi. The company is involved in a variety of businesses; such as importing interior design accessories and sports fishing equipment.
When Dhiyares requested Defence Minister Mariya Didi for commenting regarding the possibility of her involvement in a money-laundering operation, she responded that any issues of corruption that have the possibility of involving her should be referred to the Anti-Corruption Commission.
She also stated that Affan was a 40-year-old lawyer working in the United Kingdom.
Despite the Defence Minister's claim, there is no evidence that Affan practices law to any degree in the United Kingdom. Dhiyares did not find any official document that could prove that Affan actually worked as a lawyer anywhere.
Experienced, high-profile lawyers in the country often make GBP122,000 a year. At the age of 29, Affan had bought a house with funds equivalent to what a high-profile lawyer would make in seven years. Therefore, the Defence Minister's claim that he had paid for his properties with the money he had earned as a lawyer does not make sense.
In addition, Affan had stated his occupation as "professional landlord" in the AP01 form that had been filled out for 15 Temple Road Management Company Limited.
Despite Defence Minister Mariya's invitation to submit the case to the Anti-Corruption Commission, it must be noted that the ACC had failed to investigate an earlier incident involving Affan's participation during Defence Minister Mariya's meeting with the Defence Ministry of the United Arab Emirates.