Police are monitoring four individuals suspected of involvement in the alleged blackmail of several political figures though graphic images obtained via social network site Facebook, as they press ahead with the case.
The Maldives Police Service today confirmed that out of the remaining seven suspects held for questioning over the investigation, three had now been released, while another three had been put under house arrest, leaving one individual in police custody.
The case first came to light in February, when police revealed that 14 individuals including a minor had been arrested on suspicion of obtaining hundreds of nude pictures and videos that were stored on computers and external hard drives. It was alleged that these images had been obtained through fake Facebook profiles that used the identical image of a young woman.
Police said at the time that two profiles with the names of ‘Lyshiaa Limanom’ and ‘Angelic Sharrown’ respectively were used by the suspects to gather files of individuals pictured in some cases performing explicit acts in the presence of minors. Investigators stated that they would also be investigating people pictured in the files for committing crimes.
Speaking today to Minivan News, Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam claimed that despite the release of three suspects, the investigation was “very much continuing” with additional suspects now wanted for questioning.
However, he added that due the “complicated” nature of the case, which relates to allegations of public indecency, police have said that they remain unable to reveal further details of advances that may have been made until the investigation was concluded.
Shiyam added that this could still potentially include actions being taken against any individuals depicted in the seized files if they are found to be in violation of state laws. Unconfirmed reports allege the possible involvement of civil servants and parliamentarians.
“We really can’t say anything yet [about the case],” he said. “However, once the investigation has been completed, we will be sending information to the Prosecutor General’s Office on who to charge with possible offences.”
No arrests have been made in the case as yet, though it was revealed last month that a senior civil servant working at Male’ Municipality has been suspended by the Civil Service Commission (CSC), reportedly in connection to an explicit video obtained by police during the investigation.
CSC Commissioner Fahmy Hassan confirmed to Minivan News at the time that the civil servant had been suspended pending an investigation into the offending video, which had been leaked to the internet and reported to the CSC.
The police investigation has not been without controversy though, with the editor of local newspaper Haveeru questioning the motivation of law enforcement officials in the country over the questioning of two of its journalists. The questioning was said to concern the identity of sources used in a story said that reportedly identified persons within some of the images and videos.
Haveeru Editor Moosa Latheef told Minivan News that although police had acted politely and professionally in questioning two of its journalists, he believed there was the possibility that the actions taken against his staff could have been “politically motivated” to protect certain reputations.
Police officials responded at the time to the allegations by claiming that the journalists’ questioning was not a ‘political attack’ on media freedom, but a means to try and aid its investigations through interviewing the unnamed sources in the article.
Haveeru said that its journalists had not given the identities of the sources used in the article to police.