The former president is being investigated on suspicions of money laundering tied to shady real estate dealings. Corruption is a major political topic in the Maldives, which has parliamentary elections on the horizon.
The criminal court in the capital Male ordered Monday that former Maldives President Yameen Abdul Gayoom be arrested and held in custody on suspicion of money laundering.
Prosecutors argued that Yameen be detained because he could try to influence witnesses if free. The court said the ex-president would be taken to Dhoonidhoo prison island located near the capital.
Police said investigators found illegal payments totaling around $1 million (€882,000) in Yameen's bank account. He is alleged to have siphoned off government money through a private company that has been implicated in corrupt real estate deals.
The court has already frozen the ex-president's local bank accounts. Authorities believe that millions of dollars skimmed off by Yameen could also have been deposited in foreign accounts.
Yameen has denied the allegations.
Preliminary hearings in his trial are scheduled to begin this week.
Corruption major political topic
Yameen came to power in 2013, jailing or forcing many of his opponents into exile. During his tenure he relied heavily on China for political and economic support and was criticzed for his human rights record.
Yameen lost his re-election bid last year to current President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who had promised to investigate alleged corruption in his predecessor's government. Other politicians who served in Yameen's inner circle also are suspected of having participated in related money-laundering schemes.
The Maldives are set to hold a parliamentary election on April 6, with the topic of corruption in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation likely to play a major role in campaigning.
cmb/rt (AP, Reuters, AFP)