Customs officials at the Male’ Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) on Thursday seized 11 books about Christianity, typed in Dhivehi, from a Bangladeshi expatriate who came to the Maldives via Sri Lanka.
Speaking with the press last Thursday inside the Customs Building, Chief Customs Officer Ahmed Samah identified the Bangladeshi expat as Jathish Bisvas, 44.
Samah said the 44 year-old man had arrived to the Maldives on a tourist visa and that it was the first time he visited Maldives.
According to Samah, customs officials were suspicious that the expat who had tried to bring the banned items into Maldives had links with a person in Male’. Samah said the Bangladeshi man had made a booking with a hotel in Male’ but did could not identify which hotel it was.
Samah said later the same day a Maldivian national was caught with similar books, after arriving to the Maldives from Sri Lanka.
The books he brought were not typed in Dhivehi, according to Samah.
Furthermore, Samah said it was highly possible that a Maldivian was behind the illegal smuggling operation given the quality of the Dhivehi language used to type the book. He also said it was a “very serious case if a Maldivian is behind this.”
He told the press that it was difficult to identify or provide further details about the suspected Maldivian man.
The pair have been handed over to police and customs and police are conducting a joint investigation into the case.
According to the Maldives Religious Unity Regulations, it is illegal in the Maldives to propagate any faith other than Islam or to engage in any effort to convert anyone to any religion other than Islam. It is also illegal to display in public any symbols or slogans belonging to any religion other than Islam, or creating interest in such articles.
It is also illegal in the Maldives to carry or display in public books on religions (other than Islam) and books and writings that promote and propagate other religions, and the translation into Dhivehi language such books and writings on other religions.
Violation of the Religious Unity Act is subject to two to five years in prison and fines up to MVR 20,000 (US$1300).