Military mans immigration during departmental and ministerial corruption probe

Immigration Controller Abdulla Shahid has confirmed that corruption of the work permit system is a major focus of an ongoing investigation into the Immigration Department and Human Resources Ministry.

Front-line staff at both immigration and the area of the ministry handling employment have been sent home, and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has taken over their duties.

President Mohamed Nasheed has said the police investigation – which has already resulted in several arrests of suspected traffickers – is expected to take two weeks. Afterwards, staff will be invited to return to work, the President’s Office said in a statement.

Shahid told Minivan News today that people had been found to be attempting to enter the country with falsified permits.

“We believe we have 40,000 illegal immigrants, and we know two departments are involved: Immigration and the Human Resources Ministry,” he said.

“Something has gone wrong in one of these departments, and we are going to find out what it is.”

The Immigration Department’s records for expatriates working in the country show 21,000 people unaccounted for in records held by the Human Resources Ministry, he said, a discrepancy representing six percent of the country’s entire population.

Shahid acknowledged that the relationship between the Human Resources Ministry and the Immigration Department prior to the MNDF’s intervention had been “strained”, and that there was no shared IT system linking the records of both.

“We know there are a lot of loopholes and minor things that have been overlooked,” he said. “For example, 10 days ago an immigration officer was arrested after collecting a deposit which disappeared from the system the next day.”

Shahid said he expected the police investigation would discover “a lot of things.” A report will be presented to the President on conclusion of the two weeks.

The investigation, he said, was a very time-consuming task “involving a lot of data.” In the mean time, he acknowledged there had been some delays at the airport and “hiccups” as the MNDF took over immigration duties.

“We did some orientation for them, but this is not a permanent situation,” he emphasised.

Shahid dismissed the idea that tourists arriving at the airport would be intimidated by the sight of the military.

“They work uniforms of the MNDF are very similar to the immigration uniforms,” he said.

Nexbis upgrade

The government last year signed a contract with mobile security technology vendor Nexbis whereby the immigration system would be upgraded to include biometric identification of work visa applicants, reducing the reliance on potentially-forged documentation.

The upgrade was stalled when the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) expressed concerns about the deal. Cabinet has since requested the Immigration Department review the project, and if necessary, renegotiate.

“We will enter negotiations soon – we can’t agree with the figures [in the contract],” Shahid said. “The ACC has from the very beginning said it is wrong.”

“The contract says we will charge arriving and departing passengers US$2 – this year we expect a million foreigners, so that is US$4 million. Then for every work permit card we issue we pay Nexbis US$15 – currently we charge Rf50 (US$4). At present rates of arrival that US$5.5 million per year.

“The Nexbis contract is a 20 year contract – which means the total cost to the country at present-day arrivals is US$110 million. If you calculate the increased percentage of arrivals over the 20 years, it’s more like US$200 million.”

Such a deal was, Shahid said, “The worst possible thing we could do to border control. Sri Lanka’s system cost US$2.2 million to install and develop. We could get a luxury system [installed] for US$4 million. Why should the Maldivian government spend US$200 million over 20 years, when it’s highly unusual for an IT contract to last more than five? I will never agree to this – the contract should never have been signed.”

The ACC had “a lot of grounds” to investigate the deal, he suggested, adding that as the project involved imposing a tax, approval was also required from parliament prior to signing.

Nexbis shares fell 6.3 percent on the back of the ACC’s original announcement. The company subsequently issued a statement claiming that speculation over corruption was “politically motivated” and had “wrought irreparable damage to Nexbis’ reputation and brand name”, and revealed its intention to take legal action.


8 thoughts on “Military mans immigration during departmental and ministerial corruption probe”

  1. Sounds like we really need a good system to manage all this bad illegals who make crime in our country. this shahid is probably into the scam on illegals and when he cannot deal with labour he make trouble so he can get all the money. My friend who work in disaster ministry when shahid was controller say he always make deal with china company and he get rf100000 evrytime Shahid is the corrupt one and he will even sell his country to the jews and now he make trouble with labour ministry. He now haves deal with lanka company for immigration system so that he can bring more illegals from there. He cannot even add and he want be controller. He says $2 for 1 million tourist is 4m ! What a joker ! He said there will be 5.5m for company every year so he mean there will be 250000 workers every year, thats most of our population. This guy shahid is shaid ! He make trouble now for labour ministry and before that for disaster. Soon he will destroy our country !

  2. Its about time someone looked into the real problem we are having in the Maldives. 40,000 illegal immigrants at an average $200 per person per month will be repatriating a whopping US$96 million cash out of the country per year. While human trafficing is an issue, the resulting effect is eating up our economy. Repatriating these unfortunate immigrants back to their home will definetly releive our economy a little.

  3. surprise surprise...the ministry turning a blind eye to something illegal, not doing their jobs properly, not giving a damn about others so long as their own pockets are lined with dollars.... and usually there is some political motivation behind these things, and as always it is Maldivians who suffer in one way or another!
    Send these unfortunate illegal immigrants home-they are almost certainly living a harsh life over here-, and punish these people who live a charmed life off the back of ill gotten gains. Oh when will something be done

  4. What was the Minister doing while all this shenanigans were going in the Human Resource Ministry?
    Shouldn't he be responsible for all this mess? He should resign or be sacked now.
    It is time that people in Authority took responsibility.

  5. Responsi-what? This is a dirty word in Maldives, especially for those in power! I doubt they even know what it means.

    Let us not panic, the Ministry will turn a blind eye and those who are responsible for this mess will just be moved to another department. Then the MInistry will hire someone else and tell us all that this will never happen again. Six months later someone will slip the new person some fresh US dollars, and so the cycle continues.

    Let us overhaul our judicial system to make sure that those in charge understand that with responsibility comes accountability. You do the crime, you do the time.

  6. " Send these unfortunate illegal immigrants home-they are almost certainly living a harsh life over here-"

  7. to be immune from investigation and prosecution in the Maldives - who do you need to pay and how much????? .............. j


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