An investment license issued by the Tourism Ministry to a pair of Armenian brothers is to be revoked on recommendation of the police, reports local media.
Haveeru reported that police advised the Ministry of Economic Development not to issue an investor license to the Artur brothers, who were alleged to be involved with drug trafficking, money laundering, raids on media outlets and other serious crimes in Kenya. The Ministry then reportedly issued a letter to the Tourism Ministry requesting the license be revoked.
Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef is not responding to calls at time of press.
Photos of the Arturs in the company of Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb emerged on social media last week. The ministers denied involvement in the pair’s business activities, however a letter signed by Adheeb in late January requesting immigration authorities grant the brothers residency permits was later leaked to the media.
Adheeb claimed Artur brothers had previously invested in the country through a registered joint venture company with members of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
“They complained to me that these partners had [defrauded] them and that their visas had expired,” he said at the time.
“I advised them to leave peacefully and they agreed to sort out their visa and leave. They have now left,” Adheeb said.
According to Haveeru, police advised the Economic Development Ministry revoke the Artur brother’s investment license by saying that the brothers’ presence in the Maldives was “a threat to the economy and security of the country.”
The company ‘Artur Brothers World Connections’, was registered in the Maldives in October 2012, with the Artur brothers holding an 80 percent share in a 61-19 percent split.
French nationals identified as Godzine Sargsyan and Edga Sargsyan had a 10 and 7 percent share, while a Maldivian national Ismail Waseem of H. Ever Chance was listed as holding the remaining 3 percent.
Waseem’s share was subsequently transferred to Abdulla Shaffath of H. Ever Peace on November 25.
A statement on the President’s Office website dated April 4 noted that President Mohamed Waheed was advised in January that the brothers were in the Maldives “but had not broken any laws and were being monitored by the police as a precaution. The administration later decided to ask them to leave once their visa extension expired.”
“The Artur brothers are no longer in the Maldives nor do they currently hold visas to return. The President, along with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Defence and National Security, and the Maldives Police Service are looking into any irregular dealings during the time the Artur brothers and their associates were here and will determine if there were any breaches in protocol or conduct that need to be addressed,” the statement read.
However Immigration Controller Mohamed Ali told local media this week that while Sargasyan Artur had left the Maldives on March 31, given issues with the country’s border control system “there are questions surrounding the second brothers’ exit from the Maldives.”
Meanwhile, reports in local media today (April 8 ) suggested that Zaidul Khaleel, General Manager of the Club Faru resort, operated by the state-owned Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), had been dismissed after he was found to have paid the brothers’ US$6000 bill.
A spokesperson for the MTDC told Minivan News the company would shortly be issuing a statement on the matter as there were “heavy factual inaccuracies in the public domain and on electronic media”.
The brother’s activities in the Maldives have sparked substantial local interest following their dramatic departure from Kenya, after they allegedly pulled guns on uncooperative customs officials.
Subsequent investigative reports in Kenyan media found the pair had ingratiated themselves with senior government officials to such an extent that they were granted Kenyan citizenship and appointed Deputy Police Commissioners.
Local media interest in the pair extended to the publication yesterday of a photo apparently depicting former President Nasheed and former SAARC Secretary General Ibrahim Hussain Zaki apparently meeting Artur Sargsyan.
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.
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.
Ilyas refused to comment on the matter, and edited versions of the photo featuring Nasheed meeting characters ranging from Big Bird to Justin Bieber began circulating on social media.