Rilwan suspect’s detention extended for the fifth time

The Criminal Court has again extended the detention of the sole suspect remaining in custody in relation to the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan.

Police  have today confirmed that the suspect, whose identity has not been revealed to the public, had his extension extended for the fifth time yesterday (November 4) – giving police another ten days to conduct investigations.

No further details of the case’s progress have been made public.

After the Majlis rejected a 5000 signature petition calling for greater efforts in the search, the family last month lodged an official complaint with the Police Integrity Commission (PIC), accusing the Maldives Police Service of negligence.

PIC Director General Fathimath Sareera Ali Shareef told Minivan News today that the commission has decided to investigate the case, and has begun compiling relevant information.

“We have never had a case like this before,” explained Fathimath, who was unable to give a time frame for the investigation due to its “sensitive” nature.

Police Commissioner Hussein Waheed has rejected the accusations, telling local media last week that the police service had not forgotten about Rilwan’s case. Police said earlier this week that investigations were progressing “speedily”.

Four suspects were arrested in connection with the disappearance of the 28-year-old shortly after the release of a private investigative report into the suspected abduction. Three, however, were released shortly after.

Authorities – including the police commissioner and home minister – have condemned the report, suggesting that the publication of suspects’ names had jeopardised their own investigations, leading to the loss of valuable leads.

The report – conducted by a UK-based security company – noted “hostile surveillance” of Rilwan in the moments prior to his disappearance, concluding that the most likely groups to have been involved in his abduction were radicalised gangs – a theory supported by comments from Home Minister Umar Naseer.

Rilwan’s family lodged the official complaint with the PIC on October 29 , accusing the Maldives Police Service of not taking the case seriously, and of showing disrespect to the family since the disappearance 89 days ago.

“Our family is in deep mourning. We have no way forward. We believe police negligence is behind the lack of progress in finding Rilwan,” said Rilwan’s sister Fazna.

The police have failed to take the case seriously, despite an abduction outside Rilwan’s apartment building on the night of his disappearance and reports that he had received numerous death threats and had been followed, she said.

Eyewitnesses had reported the abduction at knifepoint at around 2am on August 8, but police only took their statements on August 14, the family said, adding that the police had also failed to track down and search the car used in the abduction.


Sun Shiyam’s alcohol possession trial delayed again

The second hearing in the alcohol possession and smuggling trial of Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) leader and MP Ahmed ‘Sun’ Shiyam has been cancelled for the third time in two months.

According to the Criminal Court, a scheduled hearing was cancelled today as the court was unable to deliver the summons chit.

Media reports that the presiding judge has been changed have today been denied by the court.

In March 2012, customs officers at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) discovered a bottle of alcohol in the MP’s luggage. After a police investigation, the case was forwarded to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office in August 2012 before being returned to police due to incomplete information.

The relative speed at which cases related to opposition MPs have travelled through the justice system prompted the Maldivian Democratic Party to seek a no-confidence motion against then PG Ahmed Muizz.

Muizz’s subsequent resignation last November has indirectly led to the current crisis in the country’s courts.

Shiyam was eventually charged – more than a year later – although a hearing scheduled for November 7 2013 was cancelled after a summons chit was not delivered to Shiyam.

The Criminal Court subsequently ordered police to present the MP in court, after which he appeared for the first hearing on March 13, 2014.

With local media reporting that Shiyam was kept in the guest area of the court – unlike other suspects – Shiyam denied the charges and requested more time to research the case.

A scheduled hearing for April 10 was again cancelled due to Shiyam’s absence from the capital, with the rescheduled hearing also cancelled as the court was unable to deliver the chit.

An unannounced hearing was attempted on March 27 prior to these official hearings, while Judge Ahmed Sameer Abdul Aziz – who is presiding over the case – was on leave. Citing an anonymous source at the court, local media outlet CNM reported that Criminal Court Chief Justice Abdullah Mohamed was behind this attempt.

“[Criminal Court Chief] Justice Abdulla [Mohamed]was to finish the case. In this regard he sent summoning chits to witnesses while they have not even been presented [by the state], and tried to hold a hearing today at 10am,” CNM quoted the official as saying.

The attempt eventually failed after after a number of court officials were absent from work, CNM was told.

While the case was not on the hearing schedule published on their official website, the court’s spokesperson told CNM such arrangements were not unlawful.

Replacing the judge

Meanwhile local media has reported that the court has now replaced Judge Abdul Aziz with Judge Shujau Usman upon Shiyam’s request.

The Criminal Court has denied these reports, saying that today’s hearing had also been scheduled to be conducted by Judge Abdul Aziz.

The media has published contents of a letter attributed to Shiyam which requests the removal Judge Abdul Aziz from the case stating the he has a personal grudge against the Meedhoo MP.

The letter, dated 24 April 2014, and addressed to to Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz is said to states that, during the first hearing, Judge Abdul Aziz displayed hand gestures and facial expressions which suggested the possibility of acting impartially against Shiyam.

It stated that Judge Abdul Aziz was also displeased with the MDA leader following his complaints, and that Shiyam had received information the judge may be considering a hastened and strict verdict against him.

The letter described the case against Shiyam as “a devious plot by some powerful people” and a politically motivated lie invented by Shiyam’s enemies.

If found guilty, Shiyam could lose his seat in the parliament as per Article 73(c)(2) of the constitution which states that members will be disqualified upon receiving a criminal sentence of more than twelve months would.

Import and possession of alcohol without a special permit form the Ministry of Economic Development is is a criminal offence in the Maldives. The penalty for the crime under the Unlawful Imports Act is 1-3 years imprisonment, banishment or a fine between MVR1000 – 5000.


Tourism, Defence Ministers deny involvement with “international criminals”

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb and Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim have denied involvement with an infamous pair of Armenian brothers linked with drug trafficking, money laundering, raids on media outlets and other serious crimes in Kenya.

Photos of the Arturs in the company of the two Maldivian ministers emerged on social media over the weekend, apparently taken during the Piston Motor Racing Challenge held on Hulhumale’ between January 25 and 26.

One photo showed Artur Sargsyan next to Adheeb and Nazim, while another has him apparently starting one of the motorcycle races at the event, which was organised by the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF). Another image showed Sargsyan at the red carpet opening for the Olympus Cinema.

Defence Minister Nazim has denied any association with the brothers: “I came to know about them after the rumors started spreading on social media networks. But no country had informed of us anything officially,” local media reported Nazim as saying. “To my knowledge those two men have left the Maldives,” he said.

Adheeb acknowledged meeting the brothers during the event, but bemoaned to Haveeru how “information about this issue is being spread by the media rather negatively. I have no links with them.”

“They met with us in Hulhumale’. They told us that they were defrauded by some senior officials of the former government [former President Nasheed’s government], who took large sums of money from them for investment in the Maldives,” Adheeb said.

“If you want to know the truth about who has links with the Artur brothers, you should find out who the shareholders are of the company established by them in the Maldives. It’s not right that Haveeru reports everything that’s shared on social media. The photo showing [me with] the Artur brothers was taken at an event that was open to the public,” he said.

Meanwhile, a letter from the Tourism Ministry to immigration authorities requesting a residency visa for Margaryan and Sargayan Artur, dated January 27 and signed by Adheeb, was subsequently leaked on social media.

Speaking to Minivan New, Adheeb reiterated that he had no personal links with the Artur brothers, whom he said had now left the country on his recommendation.

According to Adheeb, the 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.

“I advised them to leave peacefully and they agreed to sort out their visa and leave. They have now left.”

Adheeb added that his decision to ask the brothers to leave had been “for the good of the country”.

He claimed issues concerning the two brothers had been politicised intentionally following the PPM primaries held on Saturday (March 30).

Details of the brothers’ investments in the Maldives – and their Maldivian partners – were also released by the Ministry for Economic Development.

Haveeru reported that ‘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.

The Untouchables

Kenyan media network KTN in 2011 dubbed the brothers ‘The Untouchables’ in a three-hour exposé of their activities in the country, during which time they were found to have ingratiated themselves with the government to such an extent that they were made deputy police commissioners – the third highest rank in the Kenyan police force.

Their arrival in Kenya followed the 2004 seizure by police of 1.1 tons of cocaine, the country’s largest cocaine haul worth US$88 million at the time.

Fifteen months later, according to an investigation by Kenya’s Standard newspaper, the brothers were brought into the country “by rogue government officials to set up and train a specialised anti-narcotics unit.”

“More than one source suggests the state was tricked into hiring enforcers working for drug traffickers who wanted to recover the cocaine being held in Kenya,” the Standard reported.

“The hired guns failed to complete their task after they were publicly exposed following their March 2, 2006, raid on the Standard Group. This was a bungled operation ordered on the strength of false information about an alleged story linking powerful individuals to drug trafficking in Kenya. No such story existed,” the paper stated.

In a Skype interview for the earlier KTN report, one of the brothers admitted to leading the armed, masked police raid on the media outlet, which saw journalists beaten, computers confiscated and newspapers burned.

The Artur brothers in Kenya

A leaked US Embassy cable in 2006 observed that “the presence in Kenya of armed foreigners working on behalf of ruling elements has alarmed many Kenyans, both in and out of government.”

“Despite repeated government denials, post believes foreigners were indeed directly involved in the police raids. One journalist who escaped the raids privately tells us police contacts warned him weeks earlier that foreigners had been imported to protect the First Family from public corruption charges,” read one leaked cable.

“Some believe these same foreigners played a role (via the Akasha crime family) in the 2004 cocaine shipments seized in Kenya, and have now returned to intimidate opponents (in or out of government) from releasing information incriminating State House in any illicit activities,” it added.

Whatever their real activities, the Kenyan government’s indulgence of the brothers came to an end three months after the Standard raid, when the brothers took umbrage at a request to search their bags at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and pulled guns on customs officers.

“The Arturs stormed the customs area, demanding their bags be allowed through,” reported KTN. “Customs protested, but were punched and shoved aside. The two drew pistols, forcing the officers to scamper for safety. They then left the airport.”

Travelling in and out of the country on multiple passports was “normal practice” for the brothers, KTN reported, “as was carrying guns around the city. They took over the town by storm while the government looked the other way.”

Facing international condemnation for its inaction over the pair, the Kenyan government finally suspended a number of senior police officials and ordered their arrest, KTN reported.

After a standoff at their residence, police used a vehicle to ram the gate of the compound and took the brothers into custody.

A search revealed of the residence revealed bulletproof jackets, gun holsters, CCTV and infra-red cameras, Kenyan passports in the brothers’ names, several AK-47 assault rifles, and four pistols with filed serial numbers, two of which were later found to belong to two officers of the Kenyan President’s elite escort unit who had been robbed of them at gunpoint, KTN reported.

“The men were finally kicked out of the country and disowned by state officials as ‘international criminals’,” reported the Standard.

KTN’s investigation into the ‘Untouchables’ Part One

KTN’s investigation into the ‘Untouchables’ Part Two, Three


Married couple arrested over possession of illegal narcotics worth MVR 615,600

Police have announced the arrest yesterday (January 8) of a married couple in connection to the discovery of 270 bullet-sized packets of illegal narcotics.

The drugs were said to have been discovered both at the couple’s home and at the workplace of the male suspect, according to local media.

The Maldives Police Service said that during raids on two separate properties as part of the case, MVR 72,025 (US$4670) and US$121 in cash were discovered. Two empty bottles of vodka were also said to have been found inside the couple’s home.

According to police, the female suspect was aged 22 and the man was aged 28.  Meanwhile, local newspapers have reported that the male suspect was employed at a State Trading Organization (STO) flour storehouse.  However, authorities have opted to withhold the names and other information of the suspects at time of press.

The male suspect was arrested at 2:30pm, while his wife was arrested at 5:30pm, according to police.

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz said via social media service Twitter that that the street value of the drugs seized yesterday was estimated at MVR 615,600 (US$39,922).

Minivan News understands that the couple were brought before judges to extend their pretrial detention period.

On November 28 last year, authorities uncovered more than MVR 1 million (US$ 64,808) in cash along with other foreign currencies during an operation to thwart a local drug network.

Deputy Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed tweeted at the time that the street value of the drugs discovered during the same operation would reach over MVR 10 million (US$648,000).


Gang murdered 21 year-old man by mistake, says police inspector

Twenty-one year-old Abdulla Muheeth was mistakenly killed by a gang on February 19 and was not the intended target, Police Inspector Abdulla Satheeh said on Monday.

Inspector Satheeh said the police investigation into Muheeth’s death showed that he was not attacked because he had done anything, and that he was a good person who had no police record.

He also noted that Satheeh was not a member of any gang, and was working in a good and responsible job when the incident occurred.

Police said four men and two minors have been arrested in connection with the case, all of them with criminal records.

Satheeh said there was  enough evidence to prosecute the six suspects, but said police were still working to collect more evidence.

He said that police give high priority to such cases and assured the public that the case was proceeding at a fast pace.

Muheeth died on February19 after he was attacked at 1:55am in the morning. Three others were injured following a series of stabbings in the Maldives capital Male’ that same night.

A friend of Muheeth told Minivan News on condition of anonymity that Muheeth was never involved in any gang related activities and that he was a good person.

‘’He was a really nice friend, he treated all his friends like they were family to him, he was never involved in any gang related activity,’’ he said. ‘’It brought great sorrow to all his friends to hear he was murdered.’’

The friend alleged Muheeth was attacked by the gang because he was a close friend of the person they wanted to attack.

‘’It was a week after the person they wanted to attack had left the country to study and was killed,’’ he claimed. ‘’I say the assailants should receive the death penalty, and the police should also make them apologise to his mother and father.’’

He called on the police to investigate the case thoroughly and to bring everyone involved to justice.


Parliament sends Indian legal assistance treaty to National Security Committee

The parliament has today sent a request made by the President Mohamed Nasheed to sign a ‘’Treaty between the Republic of India and the Republic of Maldives on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters,’’ to the National Security Committee to revise the matter further.

The objective of the treaty was to strengthen the strong diplomatic relations between the Maldives and India by allowing legal assistance from one country to another, said the parliament on its official website.

In a letter sent by the Home Ministry to the President’s Office, the ministry said that the Attorney General (AG)’s legal advice was sought regarding the matter and that the AG had no objections.

The ministry’s letter said that the advice of the Finance Ministry was also sought, which also had no objections.

Assistance in the treaty included locating and identifying persons and objects, serving documents, including documents seeking the attendance of persons.

Assistance included search and seizure, taking evidence and obtaining statements, authorising the presence of persons from the requesting state at the execution of requests, making detained persons available to give evidence or assisting investigations, facilitating the appearance of witnesses or the assistance of persons in investigations.

It also includes taking measures to locate, restrain or forfeit the proceeds of crime and taking measures to locate, freeze and confiscate any funds or finances meant for the financing of acts of terrorism in the territory of either party and any other form of assistance not prohibited by the law of the requested tate was as well mentioned in the assistances that one country will provide to the other according to the treaty.

Article 6[2] of the treaty states that assistance may be refused if the execution of the request would be contrary to the domestic law of the requested state.


Fugitive surrenders himself to police

A man wanted by police regarding an undisclosed investigation has surrendered himself to authorities, the Maldives Police Services has said.

Police Sub-inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that Ibrahim Shahum was a fugitive “sought for an investigation” but declined to disclose on what charges he was sought for.

“We haven’t shared that information because we do not know what will happen at court, and if the court acquits him after we told the press what he was charged for, it wouldn’t be fair,’’ said Shiyam. “He came to police last Monday of his own free will.’’

He said Shahum was now in police custody.

Daily newspaper Haveeru reported that Shahum was being investigated in connection with the fatal stabbing of a 17 year-old in late July.

The 17 year old was stabbed in the leg near the Social Centre in Maafannu, Male’. He was admitted to Indira Gandi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) and treated for more than eight hours in the Intensive Care Unit, but the knife severed a major artery and despite an emergency blood transfusion he died the following morning at 6:15am.

A person familiar with the case told Minivan News that police had searched for Shahum “based on statements given to police by [gang] opponents regarding the recent stabbing cases. Those cases include the death of the 17 year-old boy as well.’’


Police conduct weapon searches after 17 year-old boy stabbed yesterday afternoon

A 17 year-old boy was  stabbed by a group of people near a garage in the Galolhu district of Male’ late yesterday afternoon, before sunset.

According to Police Sub-inspector Ahmed Shiyam  the boy was stabbed twice,  in the arm and shoulders, and was treated at Indira Gandi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

”Due to a rise in gang activity yesterday Maldives Police Services launched a special operation to check people and several areas,” Shiyam said. ”Police were seeking weapons and objects that could potentially be used as weapons.”

Recently another 17 year-old boy was stabbed to death by a group of men during an apparent gang fight.

The boy was stabbed in the leg as he was climbing onto a truck near the Social Centre in Maafannu, and bled to death despite undergoing transfusions at IGMH.

Police statistics for the first six days of Ramadan reveal that 225 criminal cases were recorded. There were 23 cases of assault, 61 cases of theft, three robberies, 22 drug-related cases, one sexual offence, 39 traffic-related cases, three cases of domestic violence, 21 cases of forgery, nine cases of vandalism, three cases of bounced cheques, four cases of embezzlement, 20 cases of lost items and 36 in the category ‘other’.

Comparative statistics between the number of crimes committed in the first three days of Ramadan this year and last year show that a decrease in crime rate in the first three days of Ramadan.


Supreme Court hears Gasim’s appeal

The Supreme Court of the Maldives has concluded  the hearing of Jumhoory Party (JP) leader and MP Gasim ‘Buruma’ Ibrahim’s appeal to the High Court’s ruling that his house arrest be extended.

On July 3 the High Court, in response to an appeal filed by police concerning Gasim and People’s Alliance party leader MP Yameen Abdul Gayoom, extended their house arrest to 15 days.

The Criminal Court had earlier ruled their house arrest was to be for three days.

Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed was the Chief Judge at today’s hearing at the Supreme Court. Gasim’s legal team included former Attorney General Aishath Azima Shukoor, Leader of Dhivehi Qaumy Party and former Attorney General Dr Hassan Saeed and former Justice Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel.

Senior Assistant Public Prosecutor Dheebaanaz Fahmy, Assistant Public Prosecutor, Police Inspector Ahmed Jinah were among the eight members of the police legal team.

When judge asked police who reported the case, police Inspector Ahmed Jinah replied “the president’s office.”

Shukoor said that Gasim was misled and arrested illegally in an abuse of his rights, and that therefore extension of detention would also be unlawful.

“The Criminal Court judge ruled that to keep him under house arrest for three days and that police violated many articles of the consitution,” Shukoor claimed.

“As the case has now come this far, the police have not even once denied that they abused the right on arrest given under article 48(b),” Shukoor said. “Gasim Ibrahim was taken to the police station to clarify something and then police arrested him.”

Police in their defence said that they had the power to investigate crime, conserve evidence and prepare cases for disposition by the court under article 244(C) of the constitution.

“And under circumstances police can arrest someone without a court warrant,” said the lawyer. “Police have the right to arrest someone if the arresting officer observes the offence being committed, or has reasonable and probable grounds or evidence to believe the person has committed an offence or is about to commit an offence.”

He claimed that the constitution did not preclude police from arresting a MP who is charged on a criminal offence.

“If Gasim Ibrahim was under house arrest and could attend parliament it could potentially disrupt the evidence,” he said. “We request the Chief of Justice to transfer Gasim from house arrest to police custody.”

Chief of Justice Abdulla Saeed queried the lawyer as to the seriousness of the case.

“Gasim is accused of bribery, and we need time to investigate the case in order prove it,” the police lawyer answered. “He is also accused of treason, and that affects the whole of society.”

When judge queried whether the lawyer was concerned that Gasim might flee, and he replied that it was “difficult to say.”

Meanwhile, Dr Hassan Saeed presented a list of unanswered questions by the police, and police requested the judge to give them time to research the case.

Saeed also observed that the criminal court judge had ruled that police violated many articles of the constitution in arresting Gasim.