Former head of customs pleads not guilty to corruption charges

Former principle collector of customs and registrar of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), Ibrahim Shafiu, pleaded not guilty to corruption charges at the Criminal Court today.

Shafiu is accused of abuse of authority to help a company named Centre Enterprises evade import duties for a crane.

The ex-chief spokesperson of DRP under former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had also pleaded not guilty to similar charges of assisting a company associated with current DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, ‘Sultans of the Seas,’ evade import duties for two luxury speedboats.

Sultans had evaded Rf52 million (US$4 million) in custom duties after Shafiu had decreased the duty payable for the two vessels and refused to fine the company. Import duties owed by Centre Enterprises were meanwhile reduced by 35 percent and 20 percent, allegedly through Shafiu’s influence over the valuation committee.

Although the charges against the ex-customs head were filed in September 2009, the case had remained stalled as Shafiu had been living in Canada following President Gayoom’s defeat in the October 2008 presidential election.

Shafiu was arrested at the airport and served with court summons when he arrived in the Maldives last month.

According to newspaper Haveeru, Judge Saeed Ibrahim adjourned the hearing after the prosecuting attorney requested time to evaluate the evidence against Shafiu as a number of others were implicated along with Shafiu.

Shafiu reportedly requested that the trial be expedited.

Other individuals charged in the case include Ibrahim Shiyam (H. Maafaage), Mohamed Anwar (SinaMale’ 03-35), Abdulla Waheed (M. Reason), former Chief Customer Officer Mohamed Armeen (M. Woodpecker) and Senior Customs Officer Hassan Sulaiman (Lh Hinnavaru, Landhooge).