Police arrested two suspects on Thursday after recovering counterfeit dollars worth nearly US$1 million.
The two suspects have been identified by the police as 34 year-old Umar Ahmedfulhu of Banbukeyogasdhoshuge from Madduvaree island in Raa Atoll, and 29 year-old Ahmed Munnavaru of Tharividhaage from Kolamaafushi island in Gaafu Alif atoll.
According to Superintendent of Police Mohamed Riyaz, police investigators recovered the nearly US$1 million believed to be smuggled into the country from abroad.
Riyaz said US$774,900 was recovered from a bag Ahmedfulhu was carrying when he was arrested at an unnamed bank in Male’ on Thursday afternoon.
The suspect was attempting to deposit the fake notes at the bank, Riyaz added.
The second suspect, Munnavaru, was arrested the same evening while sitting at a café in the south west harbor of Male’.
During a court-ordered search of Munnavaru’s residence, police seized counterfeit notes from a cardboard box labeled in Dhivehi as “smoked fish 13 kilos”, Riyaz revealed, adding that police recovered counterfeit dollars from Munnavaru’s wallet as well.
Though police did not specify if the two suspects are connected, Riyaz observed that all the counterfeit notes recovered from both suspects were US$ 100 bills, labeled with a four-digit serial number.
The police are further investigating the case.
The Maldives penal code states that “possession of a counterfeit coin or note knowing it to be counterfeit and to be used fraudulently or in circumstances that it may be likely to be used as fraudulently” is an offence which carries maximum five year imprisonment or exile, or a fine.
The delivery of counterfeit note or coin is also counted as an offence, with a sentence of maximum three years in exile or imprisonment while the person found guilty can also be subjected to a fine.
However, leniency is offered if the person found guilty did not have knowledge that the note or coin is counterfeit, prior to possession.
The counterfeit dollars bust coincides with the reports of increasing demand for US dollars in the black market, due to the crippling dollar shortage the Maldivian economy has been suffering.
Local importers, Maldivians travelling outside the country and expatriate workers seeking to export their remittances are forced to rely on the unofficial black market, as they are unable to change the required amount into dollars at banks which strictly control the supply.