Sun Shiyam’s bag was searched in absentia, witnesses admit in alcohol trial

Tourism tycoon and MP ‘Sun Travel’ Ahmed Shiyam’s bags were searched in his absence, state prosecutors have told the Criminal Court on Monday (May 26).

Shiyam is being charged with smuggling alcohol and possessing alcohol after a liquor bottle was found in his luggage at the airport in March 2012.

But Shiyam’s lawyer Ali Shah claimed the MP was being framed. Witnesses presented by the state admitted the luggage was with another individual when it was unlocked.

Witnesses also said they did not question Shiyam about the find at the time.

The case has garnered controversy after Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed took over the case from Judge Ahmed Sameer following a complaint by Shiyam in which he said Judge Aziz’s “hand gestures and facial expressions” indicated a personal grudge against him which could lead to an unfair trial.

The penalty for alcohol possession in the penal code is either a fine of between MVR1,000 to MVR3,000 or imprisonment, banishment or house arrest for up to three years.

Under article 73 of the constitution, an MP convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to more than one year in prison will lose his or her seat in parliament.

The MP for Dhaal Meedhoo is the leader of Maldives Development Alliance – which has 7,537 registered members and three MPs – and is founder of the Sun Travel and Tours company.