PG travels to Russia for extradition deal

The Prosecutor General (PG) Muhthaz Muhsin has left for Russia today where he will sign multiple agreements, officials from the PG’s Office have revealed.

“One would be regarding extradition and the other on mutual legal assistance between the two countries,” said a spokesman.

It is not clear whether the two countries would sign an agreement or an MOU, he added.

Muhthaz got the invitation to visit Russia last November when the Russian PG Yuri Chaika visited the Maldives.

President Abdulla Yameen had pledged to introduce a bilateral extradition treaty after the controversial detention of Russian national Roman Seleznyov in July last year.

The alleged hacker was detained by Maldivian authorities before being transported to the US military base in Guam, with Russian authorities calling it a “kidnapping” by the US Secret Service.

Despite a decline of 13 percent in the number of Russian arrivals last year – partly caused by the fall in the rouble – over 65,000 Russian tourists visited the Maldives in 2014, placing it fourth in terms of market share.

PG Muhthaz left with Deputy PG Mahmood Saleem and legal affairs director Mohamed Iyas. The delegation will return to the Maldives on March 15.

The PG’s trip comes during the state’s controversial prosecution of former President Mohamed Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

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Weak Russian ruble sees drop in resort bookings

Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb has noted that the fall in the price of the Russian ruble has affected occupancy rates in the Maldives.

Local media outlet Haveeru has reported industry insiders as saying that bookings are at a five-year low, with some anticipating the Russian market could drop by 10 percent.

Russia represented the fourth biggest source of tourists to the Maldives in 2013, with 76,479 people making up 6.8 percent of the total market share. As the second fastest growing tourist market in the world (behind China), arrivals to the Maldives from Russia have grown by an average of 10.7 percent over the past five years.

A combination of low oil prices and Western sanctions on Russia in relation to the conflict in the Ukraine has seen the rouble fall to an all-time low this month.

While Adeeb said he was confident the government would meet its target of 1.2 million tourist arrivals in 2014, he said the country must diversify its tourism markets: “The international arena is heating up,” he told a press conference on Monday.

The current government has suggested that diversification of the economy – to be encouraged through the Special Economic Zones Act – will reduce the country’s vulnerability to external shocks.

Tourism currently contributes directly to around 35 percent of the country’s GDP.

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Agreement signed with Russian authorities for cooperation in criminal cases

An agreement was signed today between Russia and Maldives for cooperation in criminal matters at a ceremony at Traders Hotel.

Visiting Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika – also Russian Justice Minister – signed on behalf of Russia while Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin signed on behalf of the Maldivian government.

Details of the agreement have not yet been shared with the media.

Muhsin told local media that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) would also be signed today to facilitate training for Maldivian prosecutors in Russia and allow Russian prosecutors to work in the Maldives.

The agreements were arranged by former Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz during his tenure – which ended twelve months ago, Muhsin added.

In August, a 25-year-old Russian woman caught smuggling 2kg of cocaine was deported before the conclusion of her trial at the Criminal Court, which had been stalled due to language barriers.

In July, the Russian Foreign Ministry had expressed outrage over the arrest of Roman Valerevich Seleznyov, 30, from the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) and called it a “kidnapping” by the U.S. Secret Service.

Home Minister Umar Naseer later said the Maldivian government would have “acted differently” if the home ministry had been aware that the alleged hacker expelled on July 5 was the son of a Russian lawmaker.

Selezynov’s father Valery Seleznyov called on Russian authorities to impose economic sanctions on the Maldives and reportedly offered US$50,000 for evidence proving his son was detained by US intelligence agents.

US officials have maintained that Maldivian authorities acted under their own laws, expelling Seleznyov from the country before his subsequent arrest.

Seleznyov is accused of bank fraud, identity theft, and other cyber crimes. The US have described him as “one of the world’s most prolific traffickers of stolen financial information”.

Russia currently ranks fifth in terms of the number of tourist arrivals to Maldives, and is one of the fastest growing tourist markets in the world. More than 33,000 Russian tourists arrived during the first five months of 2014,

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Seleznyov’s Guam hearing delayed as defence claims Maldives’ arrest was illegal

The lawyer of alleged Russian hacker Roman Seleznyov has alleged his client’s detention in the Maldives was illegal, calling for the termination of his case based on “outrageous governmental misconduct” by the United States.

“The U.S. agents disregarded the U.S. law which prohibits the execution of warrant of arrests on foreign soil, disregarded Maldives law which affords fundamental legal protections, and disregarded well-established principles of international law which prohibit government-sponsored abduction of non-combatants,” Defence Attorney Patrick Civille was quoted as saying by local media in Guam.

Seleznyov was taken to the US territory after being detained at the Maldives’ Ibrahim Nasir International Airport on July 5. Outraged Russian authorities have described his arrest as “kidnapping”.

A removal hearing scheduled in Guam today has been delayed while Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood determines whether she has jurisdiction over the case.

Seleznyov’s attorneys are reported as saying their client was detained by US rather than Maldivian personnel, as well as questioning the validity of the Interpol red notice used to detain him, claiming the notice was only issued on the day of the arrest.

An initial US press release revealed no details of the location of the arrest, though it was clearly stated as having taken place on July 5. A subsequent statement by the US Attorney’s Office in Guam said that Seleznyov had been arrested in Guam on July 6.

Arrested by US personnel

Civille’s motion is reported to have argued that  his client was “in fact taken into custody by agents of the United States Secret Service while physically present in the Republic of the Maldives,” said Kuam News.

“While on foreign soil, Seleznev [sic] was detained, handcuffed and questioned by U.S. law enforcement agents who then quickly spirited Seleznev away from Maldives to Guam on a private jet chartered by the United States,” continued Civille.

“His arrest therefore occurred on foreign soil, not upon the territory of the United States, and thus his presence before this court has been procured in an unlawful manner.”

Assistant US Attorney Marivic David is reported to have argued that the Guam court’s role is simply to positively identify the suspect in order to issue an order for his removal to the Western District of Washington in the US where Seleznyov was indicted in March 2011.

In a statement provided for the District Court of Guam, Seleznyov has described his arrest by US personnel on July 5.

“One of the three Americans screamed loudly that he was with the United States Secret Service and that I was under arrest. When I asked why I was under arrest, a paper was aggressively dangled in front of my face,” Marianas Variety reported Seleznyov as saying.

“None of these individuals was a Maldives law enforcement agent as far as I could determine,” Seleznyov is quoted as saying.

While Russian media have also quoted eyewitnesses who reported non-Maldivians detaining the Seleznyov, President Abdulla Yameen has previously dismissed claims of a US Secret Service operation on Maldivian soil as baseless.

Strained relations

After a high-level government delegation met with Russian diplomats in an attempt to smooth relations, Home Minister Umar Naseer last week said that Maldivian authorities would have acted differently had they know the suspect was the son of a Russian MP.

“Had it been known that he was a high-profile person in Russia, we would have discussed with Russia. We would have talked and found out what they thought of the matter. We don’t want at all to do anything to displease Russia,” Naseer said on TVM’s Raajje Miadhu (Maldives Today) programme Thursday night (July 17).

Selezynov’s father Valery Seleznyov has called on Russian authorities to impose economic sanctions on the Maldives and reportedly offered US$50,000 for evidence proving his son was detained by US intelligence agents.

US officials in have maintained that Maldivian authorities acted under their own laws, expelling Seleznyov from the country before his subsequent arrest.

Seleznyov is accused of bank fraud, identity theft, and other cyber crimes. The US have described him as “one of the world’s most prolific traffickers of stolen financial information”.

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Comment: Maldives caught in Russo – American tiff

Through a deft post facto damage-control, the Government of President Abdulla Yameen seems to have diffused and warded off – at least for the time being – what threatened to be a major diplomatic incident for Maldives, and involving the US and Russia, the two ‘Cold War’ era competitors who havce lately been flexing their political muscles in distant Europe.

The issue relates to the arrest of a Russian national on Maldivian soil, and his immediate handing over to waiting US marshals, who flew him away, seemingly without giving Male enough time for second thoughts – and naturally so. How things shape may now depend more on how events play out on the domestic front in Russia and/or on the international arena relating to the Russo-American stand-off/trade-off in the ‘Ukraine-Crimean crisis’ which refuses to die down, than on anything Maldivian.

Maldives was literally and possibly unknowingly caught in the Russo-American politico-diplomatic cross-fire after the local police reportedly arrested Roman Valerevich Seleznyov, the 30-year-old son of a Russian parliamentarian, whom the US has claimed was a ‘hacker and bank fraud’ wanted by American courts since 2011. Seleznyov was apprehended at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) in Male and handed over to the US Secret Service – though a slightly different version has claimed greater credence.

Russia sought an immediate explanation from Maldives. Valery Seleznyov, the parliamentarian-father of Roman, even wanted Moscow to impose economic sanctions on Male, for allowing three waiting US marshals to fly away with his son. He also claimed that the US flew his son to the western Pacific territory of Guam, where not all protection under US civil laws were available/applicable, for his son to seek relief.

MP Valery charged the US with ‘kidnapping’ his son for a (possible) trade-off against the return of Edward Snowden, a sub-contractor of the US’ National Security Agency (NSA), who has taken refuge in Russia after leaking top-secret American phone-and-email tapping records the world over. Thankfully for the US – and possibly for Maldives, too – the Russian Government is not known to have shared the parliamentarian’s claims linking the US action now to a Snowden ‘trade-off’.

‘Abduction’ and ‘outrage’

Either owing to domestic pressure, or the opportunity to hit the US once more in the prevailing circumstances of ever-dipping bilateral equations, the Russian Foreign Ministry lost no time in coming down heavily on the ‘Cold War’ era adversary. “It is not the first time that the US resorts to de facto abduction of a Russian national, ignoring the bilateral 1999 treaty on mutual legal assistance” ministry said. With much of the rest of the world media reporting near-nothing on the episode – it’s true in India, too – the Maldivian media reported that Russia had compared the Seleznyov incident to two other extradition cases. One was of Viktor Bout, whom the US claimed was an arms-dealer. The other related to an alleged drug-smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko. They too were “forcibly taken to the US from third countries and convicted on dubious charges”, the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed in its early reactions to the Seleznyov incident.

Moscow simultaneously claimed that Maldives had not kept them informed of the imminent arrest, and called upon Male to provide the necessary explanations. “The stance of Maldives’ authorities cannot be but outraging, since despite the existing international legislation norms they allowed another country’s special service to kidnap a Russian citizen and take him out of the country,” the ministry said further. Independent of ‘sovereignty’ issues that may be weighted in Male’s favour, in practical terms, these were strong Russian words against a small country like Maldives.

Seleznyov’s father advised fellow-Russians not to travel to Maldives, whose economy is heavily dependent on international tourism. Whether he had this alone in mind when he demanded ‘economic sanctions’ against Maldives, or something more specific pertaining to possible abrogation/cut in government-to-government arrangements is unclear.

As the Maldivian media recalled, in September 2013, Russia had issued a travel advisory, asking its citizens to avoid countries where US law- enforcement can arrest and extradite its citizens. Would Maldives’ name be found on the Russian list, if any, too is unclear. It is another matter that according to available statistic, the Russian market for inward tourism in Maldives “deteriorated further posting a negative growth of 7.5 percent for the period from January to May 2014. Market share of Russia stood at 6.4 percent at the end of the period”.

‘Cyber crook’, says US

According to the US, Seleznyov was arrested by the US Secret Service and was transported to Guam Island where he was presented to a court. He is under detention until a second hearing on July 22, the US has clarified since. In a related development, US Attorney for the Western District of Washington, Jenny A. Durkan, in a statement thanked the US Secret Service for apprehending Seleznyov. “Cyber crooks should take heed: you cannot hide behind distant keyboards. We will bring you to face justice,” said Durkin, who also heads the US Justice Department’s Cyber-crime and Intellectual Property Enforcement Sub-committee of the Attorney-General’s Advisory Committee.

According to the American statement, Seleznyov was indicted as far back as March 2011 in the Western District of Washington for hacking into point-of-sale systems at retailers throughout the country between October 2009 and February 2011. He is said to have been involved in the criminal underground for carding (verifying validity of stolen credit card data), where he is known as “Track-2??.

In this, Seleznyev is accused of engaging in a bank fraud scheme, hacking into retail POS systems and installing malicious software on them to steal credit card numbers. He is also accused of creating and operated infrastructure – among the servers that hosting carding forum websites selling stolen credit card numbers.

“The arrest of Roman Seleznyov is yet another example of how the Secret Service continues to successfully combat data-theft and financial crimes,” according to Robert Kierstead, Special Agent in Charge of the US Secret Service Seattle Field Office. “The Secret Service utilised state-of-the-art investigative techniques to dismantle this criminal network. Our success in this case and other similar investigations is a result of the extraordinary work of our investigators, and our close work with our network of law-enforcement partners,” the Maldivian media quoted US official statements as saying.

The US statements clarified that Maldives acted under its own law in the matter. Yet, the local media also referred to the fact that the current passenger-identification system installed at the Male airport was a gift from the US. If they had questions if the same had been linked to American computer-aided person/passport identification systems installed elsewhere in the country other than that of the Interpol’s, to facilitate tracking and detaining persons ‘wanted’ by the US, the media has been silent over flagging such issues – at least thus far.

Procedural lapses, if?

In between, the Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) lost no time in bringing out the nation’s purported embarrassment through media statements, and laying the blame at the doorsteps of the Yameen Government. The MDP statement claimed that Seleznyov was not accorded ‘consular services’ from the Russian Embassy in Colombo before his detention, nor was a court order obtained under the law in Maldives for his arrest.

It is another matter that the MDP, which is now being seen as more sympathetic to the ‘Russian cause’, as if by a matter of principle, was more inclined towards supporting the American line in international fora when party leader Mohammed Nasheed was the nation’s first democratically-elected President, but short-lived in the post (2008-12). At the time, Maldives was seen as backing the US line UN fora, boldly inviting Israeli farm scientists and medical doctors to work in the country despite the nation’s traditional reservations flowing from the ‘Palestine issue’. The one issue that keeps coming to mind from that period was the reported Maldivian decision to accept a Guantanamo Bay detainee at American instance – though domestic protests put paid to the proposal before long.

No detention order from court?

According to social media claims, the criminal court in Maldives had declined to issue the detention order, indicating that the airport detention was the last-ditch but successful effort at ensuring that Seleznyov did not jump the American coup. These reports also indicated that Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed, whom the MDP Government had detained in January 2012, but restored later, was at the centre of the current controversy attending on the possible denial of detention order against Seleznyov.

The reports also indicated that the Russian Embassy in Colombo might have been brought into the picture post facto, and not before Seleznyov’s detention and transportation to Guam. Whether the official Maldivian intimation to Russia came before Seleznyov’s father’s public statement or not remains unclear, however. However, reports indicated that it might have been otherwise, thus upsetting Russia, and the Russian Embassy in Colombo.

Social media circles have since pointed out how a section of the Maldivian media had removed previous references to possible legal advice purportedly provided to the Government in the matter, sometime during the course of the detention discourse within. It is unclear if the removal of an earlier media reference to the advice that the Government could stamp Seleznyov’s passport as ‘Departed’ and then have him arrested inside the airport was removed at anybody’s instance and insistence. It is however not uncommon for the media to remove such references in subsequent despatches, if later inquiry or clarification had put things in perspective.

There has been relative silence from the Russian side after the US statements that Seleznyov was a ‘cyber crook’ and ‘bank-fraud’. If nothing much comes off on that front, it may remain that the Maldivian lapses, if any, might have been procedural at best. Sooner than the Russian reactions came out, President Yameen, and the Maldivian Home Ministry, in quick succession, lost no time with their clarification. Accordingly, Maldives had acted on an Interpol ‘Red Alert’, as always.

“As Interpol is the biggest international police institution and the Maldives has been a member of the Interpol since 1984, the government of Maldives considers Interpol ‘Red Notices’ to be of high priority and takes serious action (regarding such notices),” the Maldivian Home Ministry said in a statement. The ministry also said the Maldives respects international treaties it is party to and strives to sustain relations with friendly nations.

However, questions have been raised, particularly pertaining to the ‘due process’ – followed or not by the Maldivian authorities. Maldives does not have an extradition treaty with the US, and ‘social media’ critics in the Indian Ocean archipelago have asked how their Government could hand over the detained person to the waiting American marshals, without handing him over through the Interpol, under the circumstances. Questions have also been raised about the kind of coordination required to apprehend the Russian and hand him over to the US personnel, who might have already been there on Maldivian soil.

The social media has gone viral with purported details that no Government has denied, or clarified, since. According to eye-witness accounts quoted in these reports, US marshals were the ones who actually effected the arrest at the airport after shouting their presence – as seen often in Hollywood films — even as Maldivian Tourist Police personnel looked on. If however there was any visual evidence to the same – as it often happens by the use of a mobile-phone camera or the like — it has not made its appearance on the social media networks.

The first and foremost question remains — why the Maldivian authorities did not go public about the 5 July arrest until after the Russians had made an issue of the same. Though initial confusion remained if Seleznyov was apprehended when he was landing or departing at Male, the social media has since come up with reports that have not since been denied.

Accordingly, a woman (variously described as his wife or girl friend) and child had accompanied Seleznyov, and they had been staying in Maldives for five days before departure. Having been allowed to proceed to Russia with Seleznyov’s detention, they had taken up the matter with his family and the Government. Father Seleznyov, reportedly heading a regional political party in Vladivostok that is partnering with President Vladimir Putin’s Government, his anguished voice could not have but found resonance in official reactions, initially. Or, so goes an argument.

‘An isolated incident’

With strong and unexpected reaction from Russia possibly taking the Maldivian Government by surprise, President Yameen lost no time in sending out a delegation of senior officials to Colombo, the seat of the Russian Embassy and Ambassador, co-accredited to Sri Lanka and Maldives, to explain the situation. This has since been followed in double-quick time by Maldives’ A-team, comprising Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon and Attorney-General, Mohammed Anil, meeting with Russian officials, again in Colombo, to take forward the discussions.

Critics of the Yameen Government nearer home would want to believe that the first-round official-level talks with Russia did not go on Maldives’ expected lines, hence the need for despatching a senior minister and the AG, personally. However, after her round of talks, Foreign Minister Dunya said later that the “strong, mutually beneficial” relations between the two countries would not “derail” due to an “isolated incident” like Seleznyov’s arrest.

According to a Maldivian Foreign Ministry statement, the two ministers explained to the Russian officials that the Maldives had followed “past practices” in dealing with Interpol ‘Red Notices’. The two sides also discussed on entering into agreements in order to avoid such incidents in the future, the ministry added. With President Yameen now on expanding the nation’s external relations with a visit to Japan earlier this year, and one to China next month, the two countries may also consider a presidential visit to Russia on a subsequent occasion. Or, would they, just at the moment when things would still be hot in Moscow?

India’s ‘sphere of influence’

Weeks ahead will determine how the ‘Seleznyov episode’ plays out in the Russo-Maldivian relations. Considering in particular that the US, withdrawing from Afghanistan yet wanting its political and naval presence relatively intact in the Indian Ocean region has been wooing nations like Maldives and threatening those like Sri Lanka in the neighbourhood, the current Russian diplomatic stand-off with Male, may have consequences for India too in its ‘traditional sphere of geo-strategic and politico-economic influence’.

With the new Government in general and Prime Minister Narendra Modi lending greater focus to the immediate South Asian neighbourhood, it remains to be seen how India views the recent developments in Maldives. It is another matter that in the overall context, India has no role to play per se, either before, during or after the event, as it pertains entirely to Maldives’ ‘sovereign’ decision-making capacity and inherent capabilities as a nation-State that cherishes its independence even more. Yet, India may not be able to look the other way if the current Russo-Maldives impasse were to blow out of proportion. Or, if the US marshals’ presence and actions in Maldives, without due information to a neighbour like India – or, Sri Lanka – came to be viewed as something more, and well into the future.

The question would then arise when and how far did Maldives take India into confidence on the ‘Seleznyov affair’, if at all. The sub-text would relate to the need – or, absence of it — for Maldives doing so, particularly in the context of the new and ‘independent’ Foreign Policy that President Yameen unveiled after assuming office – but which would have been on the works earlier, too. In context, the question would arise if the Maldivian Government would have benefited from any Indian advice or intervention in the matter, had it been sought.

For now, however, as and when the entire issue blows over, there could be an internal inquiry into the entire affair within the Maldivian Government on the facts and circumstances leading to Seleznyov’s detention, and the diplomatic precautions that the nation would have to take in similar circumstances in the future. All of it with the full realisation that no two episodes of the kind are one and the same – in terms of facts and circumstances, politics and diplomacy.

N Sathiya Moorthy is a  Senior Fellow at the Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation in India.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to editorial@minivannewsarchive.com

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Seleznyov ‘expelled’ on Interpol red notice, says Home Ministry

With additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed.

Russian national Roman Valerevich Seleznyov was expelled from the Maldives in response to an Interpol red notice, the Ministry of Home Affairs has said.

Seleznyov, 30-years-old, was on holiday in the Maldives and was arrested from the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) on July 5 minutes before he boarded a flight to Moscow. Seleznyov is the son of Russian parliamentarian Valery Seleznyov.

The Maldives Police Service followed due process in expelling Seleznyov, the Home Ministry said.

“As Interpol is the biggest international police institution and the Maldives has been a member of the Interpol since 1984, the government of Maldives considers Interpol red notices issued to be of high priority and takes serious action [regarding such notices].”

The ministry also said the Maldives respects international treaties it is party to and strives to sustain relations with friendly nations.

The Interpol official website describes the red notice as one that “seek the location and arrest of wanted persons with a view to extradition or similar lawful action.”

However, statements from both the United States and the Russian governments indicates the arrest was made by the US Secret Service. Maldives does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

Seleznyov is accused of bank fraud, identity theft, and other cyber crimes.

Russia has called Seleznyov’s arrest a “kidnapping” and described the actions of Maldivian authorities in the incident as “outraging”.

Minivan News was unable to obtain a comment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Department of Immigration and Emigration today said the institution was unaware of the incident.

Due process

Meanwhile, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has urged the government to accord due process and credible judicial mechanisms in repatriating suspects.

It also appealed to the Russian government to exercise restraint.

The government violated the constitution in Seleznyov’s arrest, claimed the party, noting that the suspect was immediately transported by officials of the third country out of Maldives jurisdiction, despite the law requiring arrests within Maldivian territory to be made by local security personnel.

“The Maldivian Democratic Party notes that the Maldivian Constitution stipulates for arrests within Maldivian territory to be made by personnel of Maldivian security services. It is also a judicial requirement for security services including the Police to procure a warrant from a Maldivian Court for such seize-and-arrest operations and that the suspect is produced at the relevant Court in Maldives prior to repatriation,” the statement read.

“The Maldivian Democratic Party deplores the fact that the government had unnecessarily projected the state as powerless and the view that the government had undermined the Maldives Constitution with blatant disregard to concerns of individual rights of tourists who visit Maldives.”

The government’s “negligent and high handed tactics” may have adverse effects on trade and tourism, the MDP said.

The opposition party has reiterated its calls for urgent judicial reform and called on local and foreign institutions to prevail over the Maldives government to “foster overdue judicial reforms and establish judicial mechanisms for Police and government officials to cease and desist from deliberate denials of due process.”

Russia’s reaction

The Russian Foreign Ministry has said they were not informed of the arrest and called on the Maldives to provide necessary explanations.

“The stance of Maldives’ authorities cannot be but outraging, since despite the existing international legislation norms they allowed another country’s special service to kidnap a Russian citizen and take him out of the country,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“It is not the first time that the US side resorts to the de-facto abduction of a Russian national ignoring the bilateral 1999 treaty on mutual legal assistance” the Russian ministry was quoted as saying in international media.

Russia has also compared the incident with two earlier extradition cases, one of arms dealer Viktor Bout and attempted drug smuggler Konstantin Yaroshenko, stating that they too were “forcibly taken to the U.S. from third countries and convicted on dubious charges.”

Speaking to Russian media, Roman Seleznyov’s father has warned Russians against visiting Maldives.

“You see how unsafe is there. One may be kidnapped in front of his wife and child,” he was quoted as saying. He said he is unable to contact his son, and claimed the US authorities are denying his rights.

“They took him to Guam because American law is not fully applicable there” he was quoted as saying.

In September 2013 Russia issued a travel advisory cautioning its citizens to avoid countries where US law enforcement can arrest and extradite it’s citizens.

Arrest and Charges

According to the Unites States, Seleznyov was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service and was transported to Guam Island – a US territory in the western Pacific – where he was presented at court. He is under detention until a second hearing on July 22.

US Attorney for the Western District of Washington, Jenny A. Durkan, in a statement thanked the US Secret Service for apprehending Selenyov.

“Cyber crooks should take heed: you cannot hide behind distant keyboards. We will bring you to face justice,” said Durkin, who also heads the Justice Department’s Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Enforcement Subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee.

According to the statement Seleznyov was indicted in March 2011 in the Western District of Washington for hacking into point of sale systems at retailers throughout the United States between October 2009 and February 2011.

He is said to be involved in the criminal underground for carding (verifying validity of stolen credit card data), where he is known as “Track2″.

Seleznev is accused of engaging in a bank fraud scheme, hacking into retail POS systems and installing malicious software on them to steal credit card numbers. He is also accused of creating and operated infrastructure – among the servers that hosting carding forum websites selling stolen credit card numbers.

“The arrest of Roman Seleznev is yet another example of how the Secret Service continues to successfully combat data theft and financial crimes,” said Robert Kierstead, Special Agent in Charge of the US Secret Service Seattle Field Office.

“The Secret Service utilized state-of-the-art investigative techniques to dismantle this criminal network.  Our success in this case and other similar investigations is a result of the extraordinary work of our investigators and our close work with our network of law enforcement partners.”

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Russia slams Maldives after US detain Russian at Malé international airport

The Russian Foreign Ministry has described the actions of Maldivian authorities as “outraging” after the US secret service apprehended Russian citizen Roman Seleznyov at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport on Saturday (July 5).

The US Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that Seleznyov was arrested after having been indicted for hacking into point of sale systems at retailers throughout the United States between October 2009 and February 2011.

As well as accusing the US of kidnapping Seleznyov – the son of Russian MP Valery Seleznyov, Russian diplomats have been quoted as condemning the role of the Maldives.

“The stance of Maldives’ authorities cannot be but outraging, since despite the existing international legislation norms they allowed another country’s special service to kidnap a Russian citizen and take him out of the country,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“We demand that the Maldives’ government provides necessary explanations,” officials told Russian news agency ITAR-TASS.

Russian diplomats also said that the US had confirmed Seleznyov had been put on a private jet by US officials and taken to the US Pacific Ocean territory of Guam.

Seleznyov’s father told ITAR-TASS today that any charges should have been brought through the Maldives’ courts.

“At present, it is the same for me whether Roman Seleznyov is guilty or not. But if American authorities had real evidence of his implication in the crime, they should have brought some charges through the Maldives’ court,” said the MP.

“No one had the right to take him anywhere without the sanction issued by the Maldives’ court. And here many questions to law enforcement agencies of the Maldives arise,” Valery Seleznyov was quoted as saying.

The US government has described the detainee as “one of the world’s most prolific traffickers of stolen information”, noting that the arrest “reflects the hard work by the U.S. Secret Service and our interagency and international partners”

The statement from the Department of Homeland Security did not reveal details of Seleznyov’s arrest, with no mention made of the Maldives.

“This important arrest sends a clear message:  despite the increasingly borderless nature of transitional organized crime, the long arm of justice – and this Department – will continue to disrupt and dismantle sophisticated criminal organizations,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.

Speaking during a celebration to mark US independence day earlier this week, Maldives Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon pledged continued assistance to the US in suppressing terrorism, organised crimes, drug trafficking, and other security issues.

Dunya also thanked the US for previous assistance in these areas.

The US granted Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System – or PISCES – came into use in the Maldives last year after a deal with Malaysian IT firm Nexbis was terminated.

The system – cited by local media as flagging the arrival of Seleznyov in the country – was criticised by the outgoing Malaysian firm as being no more than a “terrorist tracking system”.

Minivan News was unable to obtain comment from immigration or police officials at the time of publication.

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Russia, the Maldives, and short-term thinking: Cyprus Mail

“Short term beats long term most of the time, even when people understand where their long-term self-interest really lies. Take, for example, that well-known pair, Russia and the Maldives,” writes Gwynne Dyer for the Cyprus Mail.

“Knowing how hard climate change will hit Russia, why did Moscow let Gazprom start drilling in the Arctic seabed at all? Because Russia’s relative prosperity in the past decade has depended heavily on exports of oil and gas. Because President Vladimir Putin’s rule depends on the continuation of that fragile prosperity. And because Russia’s onshore reserves of oil and gas are in decline.

Russian scientists are well aware that the frozen seabed of the Arctic Ocean is already thawing and releasing huge plumes of methane gas that will accelerate warming further. President Putin is concerned enough about climate change to spend serious diplomatic capital on getting geo-engineering into the IPCC report. But warming is a long-term (or at least a medium-term) problem, and his political survival is short-term.

Short-term comes first, so drill away, and if people protest against it, charge them with piracy. And if you think this is as stupid as politics can get, consider the Maldives.

The Maldives are several hundred tiny islands in the Indian Ocean where most of the land is only about a metre (three or four feet) above sea level. As the sea level rises, most of the country will simply disappear beneath the waves.

You would think that the prospect of national extinction in two generations would concentrate anybody’s mind, and in the Maldives it did – for a while. In 2008 the long-ruling dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was ousted in the islands’ first free election by Mohamed Nasheed, a young politician who put great emphasis on fighting climate change.

Nasheed knew that his own country’s actions could have little direct effect on the outcome: China emits about 2,000 times as much carbon dioxide as the Maldives. But he also knew that the extreme vulnerability of the Maldives gives its decisions a high publicity value, so he pledged to make it the world’s first carbon-neutral country. He even held a cabinet meeting underwater, with all the ministers in scuba gear, to dramatise the country’s plight.

Then, early last year, Nasheed was overthrown in a coup by senior police officers closely linked to the old regime. International pressure forced fresh elections early last month and Nasheed came in well ahead of the other two candidates.

Various interventions by police and judges linked to the former dictator have complicated the issue, and the election will now be re-run early next month. Nasheed will doubtless recover the presidency in the end, but here’s the thing. In the whole election campaign, he didn’t mention climate change once. Neither did the other candidates.

This is a country full of people whose grandchildren are going to have to live somewhere else because the whole place is going underwater, and they STILL don’t want to hear about climate change. You can’t just blame the politicians for the neglect. It’s just too uncomfortable for people to stay focussed on the issue for long.”

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February tourist arrivals to the Maldives increase by 25 percent on 2012

Tourist arrivals for February have increased by over 25 percent compared to the same month in 2012.

Figures from the Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture reveal that an increase of 21,493 tourists visited the Maldives last month compared to February last year.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb told local media in February that he was confident the Maldives would reach one million tourist arrivals in 2012.

Despite the Ministry’s aim, January saw a 7.6 percent drop compared to the same month in 2012 – the first time the Maldives had seen a decrease in January arrivals in three years.

The Asian market – which holds a 43.7 percent share of the overall tourist market – increased by 106.8 percent in February compared to the same month last year.

China, which has the largest share of the market for a single country, saw an increase from just 12,237 tourist arrivals in February 2012 to a total of 33,592 in 2013.

The 174.5 percent increase from Chinese tourists could be attributed to Chinese New Year, which was held in February this year as opposed to January in 2012.

Despite the continuing rise in the Asian market, Europe – which holds the largest share of the tourism market at 51.6 percent – fell by 6.2 percent in February 2013.

Arrivals from the United Kingdom also continued to fall last month from 9,006 in February 2012 to 7,745 in 2013 – a 14 percent decrease.

Tourists from Italy, which has the second largest share of the European market after the UK at 7.5 percent, fell by 12 percent in February compared to the same month in 2012.

Whilst arrivals from southern, western and northern Europe continued to fall, the eastern and central European market grew by 22.9 percent from 9,376 in 2012 to 11,519 in 2013.

Political turmoil

Despite the sharp rise in tourist arrivals last month, February 2012 saw unusually low tourist arrivals following the political instability that took place on February 7, 2012, when former President Mohamed Nasheed was removed from power.

Following widespread media coverage of the country’s political unrest, Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) released a statement claiming that resorts had registered 500 cancellations in the first week following the change of government.

One Shanghai-based travel agent, Sun Yi, told Minivan News she was faced with many cancellations just two days after the events of February 7.

”It has seriously affected our business. Many guests cancelled the Maldivian holiday package which used to be very popular,” she explained, adding that her company had suspended plans to hold a commercial event at a Maldives resort this spring.

“Quite a lot of Chinese customers are very concerned of this situation. Some of them are hesitant to make reservations now,” said Emy Zheng, a Chinese national working at Villuxa Holidays.

‘Cup noodle’ scandal

Meanwhile, calls for a tourism boycott to the Maldives exploded across Chinese social media networks earlier this month, after allegations of discrimination against guests from China at one resort became widely circulated.

On March 1, dismissed Chinese employees of the Beach House Iruveli resort – formerly Waldorf Astoria – posted allegations on the Chinese forum Tianya that guests from the country were receiving inferior treatment to Europeans, despite paying the same prices.

The staff alleged that this discrimination extended to removing kettles from the rooms of Chinese guests, to prevent them making instant noodles in their rooms and thereby forcing them into the resort’s restaurants.

By Sunday, the employees’ post had been forward over 91,000 times across the Chinese blogosphere, according to one report from the International Herald Tribune, and sparked calls for a Chinese tourism boycott of the Maldives in Chinese media.

One Bejing-based travel agent specialising in the Maldives told the South China Morning Post that many Chinese tourists had started cancelling their plans to visit the country.

Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adheeb said no formal complaints had been received by Maldivian authorities over alleged discrimination at the country’s resorts.

However, Adheeb asked that in future, any tourists who had such complaints about their treatment file such concerns with the tourism ministry and other relevant authorities rather than through the press and social media.

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