Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit has exposed massive corruption at the top of the Maldives government, including theft, bribery and money laundering. President Abdulla Yameen is accused of receiving cash in bags filled with up to $1m, so much that it was “difficult to carry,” according to one of the men who delivered it.

A new documentary, Stealing Paradise, gives an unprecedented insight into how international corruption is carried out. AJ’s Investigative Unit obtained an electronic cache of confidential texts, emails and documents. It includes evidence that ties the president of the Maldives to the largest corruption scandal in its history, in which nearly $80m of money raised from luxury resort leases was stolen.

The documentary also features secretly recorded confessions of three men who helped to embezzle millions and delivered the stolen cash on the orders of the president and his deputy.

The programme finds that the president’s ministers and aides have plotted to launder up to US$1.5bn through the South Asian nation’s central bank, with the help of secretive businessmen from Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. They planned to fly in cash at up to $100m at a time, pass it through the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) and transfer it back out.

Anti-Corruption analyst Robert Palmer of Global Witness said: “This amount of money and in physical cash I think is quite unusual. I haven’t seen an example of this amount of cash laundered through a central bank. It’s something from a James Bond film.”

Data obtained by the Investigative Unit expose many other abuses of power. The former vice president ordered the police commissioner to “blast” a TV station, which was critical of the government. He also conspired with police to “light up” a government office housing 200 members of staff. The target of the attack was Niyaz Ibrahim, then Auditor General investigating the vice president’s corruption. Mr Ibrahim branded al Jazeera’s findings as evidence of ‘state-sponsored terrorism by the government against its own people.’

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