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.”
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.”