Alleged drug lord released from custody after police were late to court

A man has been released from police custody yesterday (April 2) after being taken to the Criminal Court seven minutes past his legally allowed period of detention.

Local media reported that the police had arrested the individual on a drug case, and that he was allegedly one of the drug barons arrested earlier this year.

When authorities realised his detention period had expired, the man was released by police without charge.

According to the constitution, any person detained must be presented before a judge within 24 hours.


Convicted drug kingpin leaves for Sri Lanka

The ringleader of a nationwide drug network convicted and jailed in November departed to Sri Lanka last night, ostensibly for medical treatment, local media has learned.

Ibrahim Shafaz Abdul Razzaq, 32, of Maafanu Lonumidhilige, was sentenced to 18 years in prison and fined MVR75,000 (US$4,860) after being found guilty of drug trafficking.

According to newspaper Haveeru, the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) was not informed of a date for the inmate’s return. Shafaz was not accompanied by an MCS officer, the local daily reported.

Opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV reported that a “reliable source” claimed Shafaz was not listed in the immigration control system as a convict when he boarded the midnight flight with his family.

Raajje TV also alleged that Shafaz was allowed to leave the country on orders from Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Responding to the allegation, Adeeb told Minivan News today that as tourism minister he did not have “a say in the decisions by the independent institution formed by the law called Maldives Correctional Service.”

“Raajje TV is a very irresponsible media directing all the allegations towards me politically,” the deputy leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) said.

MCS officials could not be reached for comment today.

President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz was meanwhile unable to confirm for Raajje TV whether Shafaz was among 24 convicts whose sentences were commuted by President Abdulla Yameen last month.

President Yameen commuted the sentences of persons banished, serving jail sentences or under house arrest “with conditions.”

In the final days of his administration, former President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan also commuted the sentences of 35 convicts under authority granted by the Clemency Act.

Individuals convicted of murder, terrorism, a crime with a punishment (hadd) prescribed in Islamic Shariah, disturbing the peace – including attacking or threatening a security officer or vandalising public property – child abuse, rape, homosexuality, and drug trafficking involving an amount more than four grams were not eligible for clemency, the President’s Office said last month.

Details of the convicts, the conditions for granting clemency and the reduced sentences were not disclosed on either occasion.

Article 115 of the constitution states that the president has the authority “to grant pardons or reductions of sentence as provided by law, to persons convicted of a criminal offence who have no further right of appeal.”

“Operation Challenge”

Shafaz was arrested on June 24, 2011 with 896 grams of heroin from a rented apartment in a building owned by PPM MP Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem.

Former head of the Drug Enforcement Department (DED), Superintendent Mohamed Jinah, told the press at the time that police raided Henveiru Fashan based on intelligence information gathered in the two-year long “Operation Challenge.”

Jihah labeled Shafaz a high-profile drug dealer suspected of smuggling and supplying drugs since 2006.

The traffickers had been using an authorised money exchanger called A J Emporium to transfer funds to Sri Lanka, Jinah revealed.

The drugs were believed to have been smuggled via Sri Lankan Airlines.

Jinah claimed that the network smuggled drugs worth MVR1.3 million (US$84,306) to the Maldives between February and April 2011.

Police also discovered that Shafaz had bought a shop named ‘Charm’ for MVR150,000 (US$9700) that was sold in June 2011 for MVR200,000 (US$12,970).

Moreover, Shafaz was renting three apartments in Male’ and owned a tailor shop bought for MVR200,000 (US$13,000), a shop in Kaafu Atoll Maafushi, and a Suzuki Swift car worth MVR180,000 (US$11,673), later sold for MVR170,000 (US$11,025).

As Shafaz was not in the room with the drugs at the time of the raid and his fingerprints were not found on the confiscated drugs, the Criminal Court ruled last year that there was not enough evidence to convict Shafaz on one count of the drug charges.

However, he was found guilty on the second count based on recorded phone conversations and financial transactions with a contact in Colombo, believed to be the supplier.

Three of Shafaz’s accomplices who were caught with the opiates and packing equipment – Ismail Shaheem, Mohamed Meead and Anas Anees – were meanwhile found guilty of possession and trafficking and sentenced to ten years in prison.

In a speech a few days after the drug bust, former President Mohamed Nasheed said he found it “quite shocking [that] 800 packets of heroin a night were getting sealed in the house of an honourable member of parliament.”


Police arrest prominent drug dealer

The Drug Enforcement Department (DED) of the Maldives Police Service have arrested a man they claim is a prominent drug dealer in Male’.

Head of the DED, Superintendent of Police Mohamed Jinah identified the person as 40 year old Ibrahim Shameem, who was arrested at Azum in the Henveiru district of Male’.

”He sells a illegal drugs across a wide area,” alleged Jinah. ”He was arrested last week inside Heniveru Azum, with other two persons also suspected to be involved with his operation.”

Jinah identified the other two persons as Ali Nazih, 29 and Ibrahim Shafeeu, 27.

”Shameem was arrested in August 2008 with suspected narcotics and his trial was also conducted in the court,” he said. ”But at this stage we do not know whether he was convicted or if the case is ongoing.

He said large amount of heroin and hash oil was found with Shameem.

”Last week 23 persons were arrested in different cases related to illegal drugs, 36 cases of which were sent to Prosecutor General’s office,” he added.

Last week police seized 1.6 kilograms of drugs from inside a house in Maafannu.


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.


Police arrest drug dealers in southern atolls

Police have arrested two men suspected of being among the most prolific drug dealers in the Gaaf Dhaal and Faumulaku regions.

Both men were in possession of narcotics when the arrests were made. Police said the arrests followed an operation conducted by a team from Male’ to track and apprehend major players in the drug industry.

The Gaaf Dhaal dealer was arrested on 1 January on Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo. The Faumulaku man was arrested on 4 January.

Both are currently under police custody while the case is being investigated.