PG’s office still has not received Criminal Court report on Adam Naseer

The Prosecutor General’s office has said the Criminal Court still has not provided them with the reports on the verdict of Adam Naseer, labelled one of the country’s top six drug dealers, reports Miadhu.

Naseer was arrested in July 2009 and acquitted by the Criminal Court in February 2010 due to lack of evidence.

Following his acquittal, Naseer sued the Maldives Police Service (MPS) for holding his money and freezing his bank accounts. There were more than Rf 5 million in cash.

The PG’s office appealed to the High Court to keep his assets frozen until the appeal on his criminal charges was completed by the High Court.

The PG’s office was expecting the report from the Criminal Court to continue with the appeal, as they could not proceed without it.

In March 2010, Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shammem told Minivan News “we are still waiting on the full report from the Criminal Court, hopefully [we will get it] by the end of this week” he said. “We still need to get things started.”

Shameem told Miadhu his office had asked the Criminal Court twice for the reports but still had not received them.


Adam Naseer sues police to reclaim frozen assets

Adam Naseer has sued the Maldives Police Service (MPS) for withholding his assets after the High Court froze the money earlier this month, as part of an ongoing investigation against him.

Naseer, labelled as one of the top six drug dealers of the country by the government, was arrested in July 2008 by police on drug charges.

He was acquitted by Judge Abdul Baary Yousuf in the Criminal Court in late February 2010. The judge cited lack of evidence to convict Naseer.

The Prosecutor General’s office then appealed the case to the High Court and requested the freezing of Naseer’s assets which were being held by police, and amounted to over Rf5 million (US$460,000) in cash.

On 8 March the High Court ruled that Naseer’s assets be frozen and held by police until the investigation and subsequent case are finalised.

Naseer filed a law suit against the MPS, claiming he is experiencing financial difficulties, as reported by Miadhu. His claim was heard at the High Court yesterday.

The PG and Attorney General’s office are defending the MPS in this case in a “joint effort” with Deputy Solicitor General Ibrahim Rifath, who is acting as the main primary litigator in the case.

Deputy AG Abdulla Muizzu said Naseer is claiming assets which are not related to the alleged drug offence.

Deputy PG Hussain Shameem also said some of the documents Naseer is seeking are not covered under the High Court’s ruling.


High Court freezes accounts belonging to Adam Naseer

The High Court today ruled that Adam Naseer’s bank accounts would remain frozen until the appeal process launched by the Prosecutor General’s Office is complete.

Naseer was arrested on charges of drug trafficking in July 2009, and was acquitted by Judge Abdul Baary Yousuf on 28 February, who noted there was a lack of evidence against Naseer.

The government has previously identified Naseer as one the country’s top six drug dealers, and his acquittal has raised concern among many about the integrity of the judicial system.

The High Court’s decision to freeze Naseer’s accounts follows a decision yesterday by the Criminal Court ruling that police were to return the Rf6 million (US$467,000) in cash found in Naseer’s house when he was arrested.

Police Sub Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed that the police had requested the High Court suspend the order to return the money to Naseer, and to freeze his bank accounts, until the appeal process from the PG’s office was complete.

Shiyam called the court’s speedy ruling “a success” and said the police “hope future cases will be treated in the same manner.”

President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said “I don’t think [Naseer] is under arrest” but noted that he was unable to leave the country.

“Immigration has a black list of all individuals with pending judicial matters,” he said.

Shiyam confirmed Naseer was “at home” but not under house arrest.

High Court decision

Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameem confirmed the PG’s office submitted an appeal to the High Court yesterday for Naseer’s bank accounts to remain frozen while the appeal to his drug charges is in process.

Shameem explained that it was very important for Naseer’s money to remain frozen through the appeal process because “if he gets a hold of it, he could send it abroad or launder it.”

Under the Narcotics Law, any money obtained through illegal activities “shall be confiscated by the state.”

“We have asked the court to confiscate the money in case he is later convicted,” Shameem added.

Shameem said he thought the High Court’s ruling to freeze Naseer’s assets was “a good decision” but the noted that the case would not yet be heard in the High Court.

“They will send a summon in time. We still have to wait,” he said.

Shameem noted that the case cannot be heard at the High Court until the Criminal Court sends a formal report on the original ruling, which includes the documents that were submitted and the witness statement.

“We are still waiting on the full report from the Criminal Court, hopefully [we will get it] by the end of this week” he said. “We still need to get things started.”

Shiyam suggested “there are more charges to come” in the Naseer case,  although he would not comment on whether there will be new evidence submitted in the High Court’s hearing.

Judicial reform

There has been much public outcry about the performance of the judicial system, sparked by Adam Naseer’s acquittal.

Even President Mohamed Nasheed said at a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally on Sunday 28 February, “When there’s Rf5 million in a bag underneath the bed and the judge doesn’t think it raises any kind of doubt, I wonder how they perform their duties as a judge.”

A source familiar with the judicial reform process said the judge’s conduct needed to be “looked into”.

The source noted that 75 per cent of the country’s judges had not finished primary-level education, and had simply acquired a ‘judge’s certificate’ or been appointed by the previous regime. Historically, “a few people” instructed the judges on the law “and verdicts”.

Secretary General at the Judiciary Service Commission (JSC), Muna Mohamed, meanwhile confirmed that only 35 out of 202 judges have a degree in law, and only one has a diploma in Shari’a law. The remaining 166 have local trainee certificates.


President Nasheed criticises judiciary for “carelessness”

President Mohamed Nasheed criticised the judiciary during a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally at the artificial beach.

“When there’s Rf5 million in a bag underneath the bed and the judge doesn’t think it raises any kind of doubt, I wonder how they perform their duties as a judge,” said the president at the rally on Sunday.

He added that the government would not back down and will continue to arrest other drug dealers.

Following the rally, the MDP called for those concerned to “raise their voices against a justice system that is repeatedly careless about these acts.”

The criticism of both the president and his party follows the Criminal Court’s decision to acquit Adam Naseer of H. Reendhooge earlier this week. The government had previously alleged that Naseer was one of the country’s six major drug lords.

Naseer was arrested last July after police searched his house in Addu Atoll and found over Rf5 million in cash, as well as some drugs found outside his property.

This week, Criminal Court Judge Abdul Baary Yousuf found Naseer not guilty of dealing drugs due to lack of evidence.

President Nasheed said MDP was pledged to combat drug trafficking and abuse as there was “not one family untouched by the heroin endemic.”

Also speaking at the rally, MDP chairperson and MP Mariya Ahmed Didi called on everyone who protested against the proposed liquor licenses to demand the enforcement of the drug laws.

“Come out and call for the enforcement of the law on illegal drugs,” she said, asking for the support of the coalition of NGOs and the Adhaalath party, which brought thousands of people to the tsunami monument on Friday.

Mariya claimed the judiciary was not cooperating with the government in sentencing drug dealers.

According to the MDP statement, “one of the most important pledges of the MDP government is that of tackling the problem of drug abuse.”

The party mentioned the Naseer case, saying it “finds it worrying that the justice system is opening doors for these criminals to escape” and “we call upon the Prosecutor General to take this matter to the Supreme Court and work to achieve a speedy and just outcome to this matter.”

Naseer’s case has sparked controversy because he has previously been arrested and acquitted on drug dealing charges. He was also included in President Nasheed’s ‘top six’ list of drug dealers. Police investigated him for months before placing him under arrest in July 2009.

The MDP’s press statement claimed that “despite the forensic evidence found by the hard work of police, the justice system rules against the evidence and is careless in implementing justice.”

Police Spokesperson Abdul Moosa said “in every case we submit evidence at hand when the investigation is over.”

He did not specify what evidence was submitted for Naseer’s case or if it was admissible in court.

The PG’s office has said it will be appealing the case to the High Court, but did not respond to Minivan News today.

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) had not made a comment at time of publication.

President Nasheed said yesterday in his Presidential Address to the People’s Majlis that in 2009 “there was an increase of 41.4 per cent in the number of people arrested for drug abuse, when compared with 2008 figures.”

The president did not mention if the number of convictions had also risen.


One of ‘top six’ drug dealers found innocent by criminal court

The Criminal Court has ruled that Adam Naseer of H. Reendhooge is innocent of dealing drugs, despite being labelled by the government as one of the country’s ‘top six’ drug dealers and a police investigation lasting nearly a year.

Police searched Naseer’s home in Addu Atoll on 30 June 2009, where they found over Rf6 million (US$461,500) in cash and a tin containing drugs outside his house.

He was later arrested in early July in Addu Atoll, but “he wasn’t in prison the whole time,” explained President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair. “On several occasions the court has delayed his imprisonment until the hearing.”

Naseer’s arrest last year was a big break for the Prosecutor General’s office and the police, who had been leading an investigation and following Naseer for months.

Naseer had also been arrested in 2007 on drug dealing counts and later on counts of bribery and giving false information to the police, but he was released due to lack of evidence.

In his verdict, Judge Abdul Baary Yousuf said there was not enough evidence to prove the money had come from dealing drugs. He added that the drugs could have been placed outside Naseer’s house by anyone and did not necessarily belong to him.

Zuhair said Naseer “is still considered to be a top drug dealer. He was caught red-handed.”

He added that although the executive and legislative branches have been reformed with the change in government, “the justice system is still going the way it was in Gayoom’s time” and “many of the judges are sympathisers of Gayoom.”

Ahmed Adam, program coordinator for Journey, an NGO with a mission to help addicts maintain their recovery and to raise public awareness on drug issues, said “these people shouldn’t be on the streets. If they’re not behind bars, what will happen?”

“The judge should ask where all this money came from,” added Adam.

Only one witness claimed the drugs belonged to Naseer. Under Shari’ah law, there needs to be at least two witnesses to prove a person guilty, annulling the witness’s testimony.

Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameen said “he should not released, but… the court has acquitted him.”

Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizzu said he had no comment on Naseer’s release, but added that his office would “appeal [the case] to the High Court.”

Two of the ‘top six’ have now fled the country. police are still investigating the remaining three suspects.

President Nasheed has previously said that while the government knows the identities of the top six drug dealers, their arrests would appear politically motivated as they included political opponents.