A police officer was among nine people arrested in a drug bust on the island of Hinnavaru in Lhaviyani atoll on Tuesday (November 11).
Briefing the press yesterday, Chief Inspector Ahmed Shifan, head of the Drug Enforcement Department (DED), revealed that all the suspects in custody were Maldivian men above 18 years of age from Hinnavaru.
“A police officer is under arrest but I cannot provide further information at the time,” he said.
The Hinnavaru magistrate court has extended the remand detention of the suspects for eight days, he said.
Shifan said 16 bullet-sized rubber packets of “a substance suspected to be drugs,” 241 bullet-sized rubber packets of heroin, and 145 packets of hash oil were seized during an operation conducted by the DED in Hinnavaru.
The DED searched 13 homes in the island and questioned a number of people, he said, noting that the operation was still ongoing in Lhaviyani atoll.
Similar operations would take place in other atolls in the coming days, the chief inspector said.
The operation involved 36 police officers and was conducted with the assistance of the Special Operations (SO) department, the investigative support department, and operational support department.
A police officer was also arrested in a 24kg drug haul in March, which police said was “the largest amount of drugs seized in a police operation conducted in the Maldives so far.”
Police later revealed that the officer had used a local money transfer service to send money to an Iranian agent.
Local media reported in August that the officer was among three Maldivian suspects released from custody after the Prosecutor General’s Office decided there was insufficient evidence for prosecution.
Gangs and police
Speaking at a conference of police division and atoll commanders on October 22, Home Minister Umar Naseer said criminal gangs in the atolls were attempting to infiltrate the police by forging personal relationships with police officers stationed in their islands.
Gangs attempt to “penetrate” police stations in order to gather information to carry out criminal activities, he said.
Naseer said complaints have been received from various islands about offenders quickly learning of a crime being reported to the police.
Information was thus “leaking” from within the police, he added.
“So some people hesitate to share information with some police stations. This is very regrettable,” he said.
Commanders in the atolls should ensure that police officers do not fraternise with known criminals or suspected drug dealers, Naseer urged.
Naseer said he had received complaints from various islands about police officers spending time with suspected drug dealers when they were off-duty.
Commanders should be aware of who their subordinate officers “go to coffees or picnics with,” he advised, which should be controlled to ensure the “credibility of the police force on that island or atoll.”