A photograph widely distributed by local media outlets depicting former President Mohamed Nasheed and his Special Envoy Ibrahim Hussain Zaki meeting the infamous Armenian ‘Artur Brothers’ has turned out to be a hoax.
The Armenian brothers – linked with drug trafficking, money laundering, raids on media outlets and other serious crimes in Kenya – were recently photographed with current Minster of Tourism Ahmed Adheeb and Defence Minister Ahmed Nazim during the Piston Motor Racing Challenge, organised by the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF).
The two ministers initially denied any involvement with the brothers or their apparent business interests in the Maldives, however a letter from the Tourism Ministry to immigration authorities requesting a residency visa for Margaryan and Sargsyan Artur, dated January 27 and signed by Adheeb, was subsequently leaked on social media.
Zaidul Khaleel, General Manager of the Club Faru resort which is operated by the state-owned Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), has also reportedly been sacked after he was found to have paid the brothers’ US$6000 bill.
Meanwhile, on Sunday a photo depicting former President Nasheed and Special Envoy and former SAARC Secretary General Ibrahim Hussain Zaki apparently meeting Artur Sargsyan was leaked on social media and widely republished by local media.
Local media outlet Channel News Maldives (CNM) reported that the photograph was originally leaked by the former Immigration Controller and current State Minister for Defence, Ilyas Hussain.
However the photograph turned out to be an edited photo taken during a formal reception for US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, held at the former Presidential residence of Muleaage in January 2011, with Sargsyan Artur’s head carefully photo-shopped onto Steinberg.
According to CNM, Ilyas at the time confirmed to the media outlet that the photo of Nasheed with Artur Sargsyan was real and authentic.
Speaking to Minivan News, Ilyas Hussain stated that he no longer wished to comment on the matter.
Following the publication of the leaked photo, a member of President Waheed’s Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) told Minivan News that Waheed had prepared a press conference following the release of the edited photo, but later called it off after the photo was discovered to be a hoax.
Minivan News was unable to confirm the claim as President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad was not responding at time of press.
The photo has since gone viral across Maldivian social media and has been widely photoshopped to depict Nasheed meeting a wide variety of celebrities and fictional characters.
The meme has blossomed to include Nasheed encountering deceased Chairman of Apple Inc, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Justin Beiber, Professional Wrestler/Rapper/Actor John Cena, the Pope, popular antagonist of the Star Wars franchise Darth Vader, fictional lead character in the Sacha Baron Cohen comedy ‘Dictator’ Admiral General Haffaz Aladeen, DC Comics superhero Batman, Rowan Atkinson’s UK comedy icon Mr Bean, and ‘Big Bird’ from US children’s television show Sesame Street.