The ringleader of a nationwide drug network who is currently in Sri Lanka for medical treatment has asked the High Court to review his 18-year jail term.
Ibrahim Shafaz ‘Shafa’ Abdul Razzaq, 32, of Maafannu Lonumidhilige was sentenced to 18 years in prison and fined MVR75,000 (US$4,860) for drug trafficking in November.
Shafaz’s departure to Sri Lanka caused a furor in local media last week with newspaper Haveeru claiming the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) were not informed of a date for the inmate’s return. An MCS officer did not accompany Shafaz, the local daily reported.
Opposition aligned broadcaster Raajje TV alleged Shafaz was not listed in the immigration control system as a convict when he boarded the midnight flight with his family.
But High Court procedures say appellants in criminal cases must be present in the courtroom for trials to proceed.
Meanwhile, Commissioner of Prisons Moosa Azim said all due procedures had been followed in allowing Shafaz to leave to get medical treatment.
Article 70 and 110 of the new Jails and Parole Act states the Commissioner of Prisons may release an inmate to seek medical treatment abroad, on the advise of a medical board, if such care is not available in the Maldives.
“A medical officer does not have to accompany the inmate. He was allowed to leave under an agreement with his family. Family members will be held accountable for his actions, including failure to return,” Azim told Minivan News.
Although an inmate is given a maximum three-month period for treatment, the duration may be extended if documents prove further care is required.
“Shafaz’s family is required to keep us informed through daily reports,”Azim said.
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 changer 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 Malé 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.”