Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) leader Ahmed ‘Sun’ Shiyam has denied the charges of alcohol possession before the Criminal Court.
The prominent businessman and MP for Dhaalu Meedhoo constituency was allegedly with the illegal bottle of liquor by customs official on his arrival airport on his arrival in Malé in March 2012.
Lawyers from the Prosecutor General’s Office told the court that when customs officers searched his luggage, officers discovered the bottle inside before running tests on its contents. The PG’s Office announced it was pressing charges against Shiyam for possession of alcohol and smuggling alcohol into the country.
Shiyam denied the charges and his lawyer requested that the court give him more time to research the case before the next hearing on April 10.
Newspaper ‘Haveeru’ reported that Shiyam was brought to court by police in compliance with an arrest warrant issued after the MP had failed to comply with the court summons.
According to Haveeru, Shiyam was kept in the guest area of the court – unlike other suspects brought to court – and unlike other MPs under the same circumstances.
Online newspaper Sun Online – run by a company owned by Shiyam – today quoted Shiyam’s legal team saying that it was a set-up to destroy the MP’s reputation.
His legal team told Sun that Shiyam was the owner of many resorts and there was no reason Shiyam should try to bring in an alcohol bottle from abroad. Shiyam was not hiding from the courts and will fully obey all laws, Sun was informed.
The Criminal Court last week ordered the police to arrest and summon both Shiyam and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) former Special Envoy to President Mohamed Nasheed, Ibrahim Hussein Zaki.
Zaki is facing trial after he was arrested from the island of Hondaidhoo in Haa Dhaalu Atoll while he was allegedly in possession of cannabis and alcohol in November 2012.
The speedy prosecution of MDP members in relation to the Hondaidhoo incident – in comparison to delays in the Shiyam case – was highlighted by Nasheed last October as his party filed a no-confidence motion against then Prosecutor General Ahmed Muiz.
On October 31, 2013, the Criminal Court sentenced MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor to six months for contempt of court after he refused to comply with court summons – though the charge was later overturned in the High Court.
On February 20, MDP MP Abdulla Jabir was sentenced by the Criminal Court to one year for refusing to provide a urine sample to police to run a drug test.
Both Hamed and Jabir’s prosecution were in relation to the November 2012 Hondaidhoo raid.
Police have informed the court today that they were unable to arrest Zaki as he was abroad.
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.
Shiyam’s MDA formed an alliance with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in August, 2013, to back the eventual winner of the presidential election, Abdulla Yameen.