Three minors charged in gang murder

Three minors have been charged over the death of 21-year-old Hussein Waheed, who died from stab injuries to his chest on December 24, 2013.

A 16-year-old is also being charged with murder, while a second 16-year-old is being charged as an accomplice to murder. A 14-year-old is also being charged with attacking another individual at the scene.

Although the Juvenile Court reduces sentences for juvenile offenders, judges have no opportunity to offer leniency in murder-related offenses, a juvenile court spokesperson told Minivan News.

New death penalty regulations publicised in March allow children as young as seven to be executed for murder. The regulations came partly in response to a spate of gang-related killings in the capital in recent years.

Home Minister Umar Naseer said the regulations were a first step to “keeping peace and creating a safe environment for our citizens.”

According to the police, Waheed was murdered in a dispute over drugs between rival gangs in Malé. He was attacked at 10:30pm on December 24, and died shortly afterwards at 11:10pm at Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.

Malé’s prominent gang culture has been well documented in recent years as using young people to carry out illegal acts, with persistent suggestions that the groups are linked with powerful business and political factions.

The 16-year-old murder suspect is accused of stabbing Waheed in the chest with a six inch blade, while the second 16-year-old is accused of helping the suspect flee the scene.

The 14-year-old is being charged with attempting to attack another person at the scene with a 7-inch blade.

All three are currently under police custody.

The police also arrested two additional men over the murder and have previously noted that all four individuals initially arrested in this case – except the 14-year-old – have criminal records.

The murder suspect had previously been sentenced for three counts of theft but was released on completing a rehabilitation program by the Juvenile Court.

Hearings are scheduled for May 27 and June 3.

The victim Waheed also has a criminal record, being taken into police custody in April 2011 as part of a special operation to reduce crime in the capital, in connection to a stockpile of weapons and drugs found in a Malé house.

On December 29, Naseer said the police had prevented a second revenge attack for Waheed’s murder in late December.

In May 2013, Amnesty International issued a statement condemning the sentencing of two 18-year-olds to death for a murder committed while they were minors.

The Juvenile Court issued the death sentence to two 18 year-olds found guilty of the February 18, 2012 murder of Abdul Muheeth. Muheeth was stabbed at 1:45am near the Finance Ministry building in the capital Malé and later died during treatment.

“The Maldives is entering new and dangerous territory – imposing death sentences for crimes allegedly committed by children is alarming,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

“The Maldives authorities are flouting international law – anyone convicted of a crime committed when they were under 18 is exempt from the death penalty,” she said.


Two men arrested after rape of 15-year-old girl

Police have arrested two men after a 15-year-old girl was raped on the island of Hulhumalé.

Local media outlet Haveeru reported that the girl was raped by a gang of four men, two of whom are still being sought after by police.

Police have confirmed that the two men arrested – aged 21 and 29 – are linked to this case. Hulhumalé police station and the Family and Child Protection Department is investigating the case.


One killed, one injured in Male’ stabbing incident

Two young men of 18 and 21 years of age were stabbed last night in an incident that took place near ‘Coffee Corner’ cafe’ in Male’ around 11:37pm, police have reported.

The 21 year old – identified as Hussein Waheed – passed away while being treated for injuries at Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Malé. The other victim of the attack, Shaz Shareef is being treated for injuries at the hospital. Both victims were from the neighborhood in which they were stabbed.

Speaking to Minivan News, a police media official said the force had immediately begun a special operation to find the perpetrators, and said a 26 year old had already been taken into police custody.

While the police declined to give further details about the suspect, in a video message, the head of the MPS Serious and Organized Crime Unit has appealed for public assistance in the investigation.

He requested members of the public to report any information regarding this incident to the Unit’s hotline  9911099 or police numbers 119  and 3322111.

The victim Hussein Waheed was taken into Police custody in April 2011 in a police special operation to reduce crime in the capital, in connection to a stockpile of weapons and drugs found in a Male’ house.

This is the third stabbing reported this month, a 24 year old man was attacked with a sharp object on 22 December in Male’, and on 4 December a 55 year old man was was attacked in Ha. Hoarafushi.

Two people were killed in L. Gan in two separate incidents earlier this year. Ismail Nizar, 31 was killed on 14 July whilst riding on the street, and Mohamed Hassan 54 was attacked in his sleep.

Last year ten people were killed in the Maldives in mostly gang related incidents.


Police charge nine men and two minors in connection with May stabbing

Police have concluded an investigation into a case involving a young man attacked with sharp weapons in May, and have sent the names of nine men and two minors to the Prosecutor General (PG)’s office for prosecution.

Police identified the nine men as Anas Hussein, 19 of Hinnavaru in Lhaviyani Atoll, Midhath Ibrahim, 18, of Dhevvadhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, Mohamed Fareed, 18 of Male’, Hanif Imthiyaz, 18 of Baarah in Haa Alifu Atoll, Shifan Jameel, 20 of Villingili in Gaafu Alifu Atoll, Ahmed Mafaz, 26 of Addu City, Abdulla Naasihu, 18 of Kondey in Gaafu Alifu Atoll, Abdul Muhaimin Ahmed, 20 of Rathafandhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll and Nafeel Abdul Gadhir, 27 of Dhaandhoo in Gaafu Alifu Atoll.

Police said the nine persons stormed into a shop on Hithahfiniva Magu in the Henveiru ward of Male and assaulted a young man inside the shop on May 19 at about 6:20pm.

The investigation into the case was concluded on July 21 and was sent to the PG the same day, police stated.

The local media reports said the young man had run into the shop to escape from a group that was trying to attack him, and was hiding behind the counter when the group entered.

The victim was stabbed two places, local media reported.


Police arrest stabbing suspect Sharufan and three others

Police have located and arrested 19 year-old Sharufan Abdul Razaq Ahmed of Lonumidhilige, after calling for public assistance to locate the suspect in a recent double stabbing.

Police said that the four were arrested Tuesday night at 11:00pm while they were inside an apartment on the first floor of Nikoshia house in Maafannu ward.

Police stated that the other three were arrested on allegations they assisted Sharufan to hide from police.

According to police, the three arrested included two males aged 32 and 27, and a 20 year-old female.

Officers obtained a search warrant for the premises and discovered evidence related to the crime, police said.

According to local media, the three arrested in the apartment included Sharufan’s brother Ibrahim Shafaz of Lonumidhilige in Maafannu ward. Shafaz was arrested in 2011 after police labelled him a drug lord.

Shafaz and the 20 year-old woman were released yesterday when they were taken before the Criminal Court for extension of detention. The court however granted a 15-day detention period for Sharufan.

Police said the operation to arrest the suspects was conducted by its special task force recently established to combat the rise in gang related crimes in Male’.

Police had earlier appealed for public assistance in locating Sharufan, alleged that on May 18 at 3:25 pm he stabbed two people near the junction where Chanbeyly Magu meets Haveeree Hingun.

Local newspaper Haveeru reported that the two people injured in the attack were still in a serious condition.

Razzaq has a prior criminal record, according to local media, after he allegedly entered Nalahiya Manzil House in Henveiru Ward in January 2010 with a companion and stabbed a person inside the house.


Police Commissioner accuses politicians of involvement in gang activity

Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz has alleged politicians are often responsible for encouraging gang-related activities in the capital island Male’.

Riyaz is quoted in local media as saying that in order to achieve political gains, politicians frequently provide financial incentives to gangs to carry out activities.

“When police attempt to counter gang activity on the island, politicians stand up in defence of these gang members. This is a problem. If politicians, too, wish to develop this country, they too will need to think of the institution. If an individual in the institution does wrong, then action must be taken against that individual. But the institution, as a whole, should remain in place. Politicians need to understand this,” Riyaz said.

Zero-tolerance against gangs: CP Riyaz

Riyaz said Deputy Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed had been placed in charge of the Gang Task Force, created after five stabbings in three days earlier this week.

Riyaz said patrols on the streets of Male’ would be increased, and that should any gang members “gather together even the least”, they will subjected to police searches and immediately placed under detention if “any illegal objects” are found in their possession.

“These instructions have already been issued to police. We will completely enforce upon them the powers granted to us by law. Police have been advised to act under a ‘zero tolerance’ policy and not allow them any leeway,” Riyaz said.

“They have now been mandated with a specific task on official Maldives Police Service paperwork. Intelligence will look into how much detail we have about gangs; who and who belong to specific gangs, who are the leading figures in each of these gangs, and their criminal records. They will also look into those who belong to gangs at different levels of hierarchy in it, what has happened to the cases against them, and at what point the cases against them have been stalled. To overcome this stalling of cases is one of the task force objective,” Riyaz explained.

“We will exert pressure even if the cases are being delayed at the Prosecutor General’s Office (PG). We will call upon them to expedite those cases. Police will also speed things up. We will also call upon the courts to expedite them. Intelligence and investigation [teams] will focus on these things,” he continued.

Riyaz said leading figures of gangs will no longer be given privacy related to ongoing investigations, saying that in future all details concerning them will be revealed to the public.

He further said that should such a case remain pending in court, police will hereafter reveal such information to the public too.

Increased surveillance

Commissioner Riyaz said the intelligence department would try to find evidence strong enough to legally detain gang members, adding that police will act immediately once such information is uncovered.

Riyaz revealed police are running an operation whereby surveillance cameras will be installed in locations with risk of high criminal activity. According to Riyaz, nine such cameras have now been installed and are currently used for monitoring, out of a total target of 50.

Riyaz said existing surveillance cameras were generally installed in areas judged relevant with the intention of monitoring protests and demonstrations.

Gang Task Force

Commissioner Riyaz briefed the Gang Task Force on Wednesday, following his comments to local media the previous day.

Riyaz instructed the task force to re-evaluate the cases against gang members, solve the cases at an elevated speed and complete all necessary work to deliver due penalties to them.

“The Gang Task Force will be overseen by a seven member executive committee, with DCP Waheed heading it. The operation has now been commenced,” a police media official confirmed.

Anxiety over rising gang violence: Asia Foundation

“As in most fledgling democracies, political uncertainty can breed violent acts in an effort to achieve narrow political gains,” stated the Asia Foundation in an article published on its website about gang activities in Male’, a follow up to its 2012 report on the issue.

Asia Foundation stated that “due to high levels of domestic violence, divorce, and broken homes, joining gangs has become a popular choice for Maldivian youth looking outside of traditional family structures for support and protection.”

The foundation, together with local NGO Maldives Institute for Psychological Services, Training And Research (MIPSTAR), is currently conducting a workshop for 34 voluntary participants, including gang leaders and members, aiming to offer counselling, vocational training and to build a relationship between them and security forces to better address the issue.

“Monthly meetings with the police to discuss grievances and strategies to address potential violence serves as a fulcrum to bring all gang members together,” the article stated.

“[One gang member], who has been involved in gangs since he was 16 and is now a senior member, pointed out frustrations over police harassment on the streets and arrests without evidence. He also said that being labeled a gang member results in closer scrutiny by the police officers, which he said was acceptable as long as they are not wrongfully arrested for crimes not committed by them,” it read.

“The discussions reveal that one of the root causes for harassment and wrongful arrests were the beat police officers (police constables and sergeants who are permanently assigned to a neighbourhood) who tend to view all gang members with suspicion and hostility,” the article continued, adding that efforts were now being made to address this “trust deficit, which currently runs high”.

Speaking of the foundation’s program, the article says “The three most dangerous gang members as identified by the police are enrolled in O’ Level (high school diploma) programs and regularly seek individual counselling also offered in the program. They expressed that the present context is challenging. On the one hand, they want to engage actively in the program and reform themselves; but on the other hand, there is also a pressure to engage in illegal activities including contract violence.”


Defamatory accusations are baseless and untrue: PPM MP Yameen

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) presidential primary candidate Abdulla Yameen has claimed that recent defamatory allegations made against him are baseless and untrue.

Speaking at a rally in Addu City on Thursday (March 21), Yameen revealed that he had been accused of several issues, including holding large sums of money in foreign banks, local media reported.

Responding to the accusations, Yameen stated that “none of those stories are true”, asking people not to believe them.

“I have been accused of holding large sums of money in different accounts. I’m not responding to these allegations. But the people who work with me need public confidence.

“I want to say to you, that there are several allegations targeted at me. But those allegations are baseless and unfounded. None of those stories are true. Don’t believe them,” SunOnline quoted Yameen as saying.

Yameen had stated he did not want to comment further on the matter, and that he did not wish to respond to the claims against him.

Yameen, who is the half brother of former autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, claimed that if the PPM wins the presidential election this year, the Maldives would experience “prosperity similar to, or even better than, the past 30 years.”

In reference to a number of young individuals who reportedly praised Yameen during the rally, the PPM presidential primary candidate said while he cannot accept constant praise, continuous criticism could also become an issue.

“At rallies like this I often hear about my services. I feel disinclined to sit and listen when people talk about my services. But this is a practice introduced by young people.

“But before they take it too far, I want to say, I may not be able to accept continuous praise; but at the same time, continuous criticism could also lead to displeasure,” Yameen was quoted as saying.

Both Abdulla Yameen and Umar Naseer are currently campaigning to win the PPM’s presidential candidate slot for the upcoming presidential elections, to be held in September this year.

Yameen forced to play 80 percent in defence: Umar Naseer

Last week, a spokesperson for Abdulla Yameen’s ‘Yageen’ campaign team told local media on Saturday that Umar Naseer had made slanderous and “blatantly untruthful” statements about Yameen during a recent rally.

Speaking at the aforementioned rally, Naseer claimed that Yameen’s campaign team is forced to play “80 percent in defence” in order to denounce the public’s claims against him.

“We heard our brother MP [Ahmed] Nihan speaking at Yameen’s campaign rally. All he did was try to denounce what the public says about Yameen,” Naseer said at a rally held on March 15.

“Nihan said that although people allege Yameen has ties with gangs and gang violence it is not true. He said that although people say Yameen bathes with mineral water, that isn’t true either.”

Earlier this month, Naseer claimed that he had received “intel” that an attempt would be made to “assassinate” his character by planting illegal substances in his offices.

Following Naseer’s initial claims, he told supporters at a rally on March 15 that an MP involved in the illegal drug business was attempting to “frame him”.

“[The MP] tried to ruin my reputation by sending police to my business offices in the pretence of looking for illegal substances. I do not get involved in such acts.

“I will not name the MP, I do not need to name him here. He is trying to hide the relations he has with gangs and his involvement in the illegal drug business.”

On March 17, a police source told Minivan News that a bottle of alcohol had been found in a car belonging to Naseer’s wife when searched by police.

“Last night the driver of the car had parked after there had been some sort of accident caused by someone on the back seat.

“At that time, the driver found a bottle of alcohol within the car and reported it to the police. We took the driver, questioned him and released him,” the source claimed.

Speaking in regard to the alcohol allegedly found in the car, Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed that a bottle had been found and the case was still under investigation.

“We received a report from a driver of a vehicle stating that there was a bottle of alcohol in the car. Police went to the car, searched it and took the vehicle,” Haneef said.

Despite Umar Naseer’s comments, former President Gayoom tweeted earlier this month that external influences were attempting to split both Yameena and Umar apart.

“Some people from outside PPM are trying hard to drive a wedge between Yameen and Umar. All PPM members please be alert to this,” Gayoom tweeted.

The PPM presidential primary election is scheduled for March 30.


Politicians and businessmen funding gangs to attack opponents: Asia Foundation

Politicians and businessmen are paying gangs in the Maldives tens of thousands of rufiya to assault rivals, damage property, and in some cases have them killed, according to a report into the country’s gang culture by the Asia Foundation.

“Political and business elites exploit gangs to carry out a range of illegal activities that serve their political or business interests in exchange for financing the gangs,” stated the report, which collected data through 20 focus groups and 24 in-depth interviews with gang members.

“This has worrying implications for support for democracy among the young generation as they witness first hand corruption on the part of their political representatives,” the report states.

The research was conducted primarily in the capital Male’, which it describes as having 20-30 gangs, ranging in size from 50-400 members.

Gangs are described as including mainly males aged under-25 years. Of those involved in the focus groups, 63 percent were unemployed, and 54 percent admitted to being drug users – both prominent issues highlighted in the report.

Poisoned politics

The report cited anecdotal evidence suggesting that the root of gangs in the Maldives was linked to the introduction of heroin to the country in the early 90s.

“Gang members report that in the early 1990s, foreigners (purportedly Indians) gave away free packets of heroin (locally called brown sugar) that contained directions for use,” read the report.

“Subsequently drug users, through involvement in gangs, supported their drug habits by the sale of drugs and other criminal activities,” it continued.

The report also draws strong links between the introduction of political parties during the last decade’s democratic reforms, and the escalation of gang activity.

“Democracy is not working… people do not know what democracy is… even politicians do not know what it really is… there is too much freedom… people do not know how to use this freedom,” the researchers were told by one gang member.

Politicians are described as being involved in symbiotic relationships with gangs, who depend on the gangs to suppress opponents and carry out tasks to help maintain their popularity or to divert media attention from political issues.

“Politicians have asked us to cut the TVM cable for MVR 25,000 (US$1620), to light up a bus for MVR 10,000 (US$650). Also in the recent political riots we were involved in things like burning the garbage collection area,” said one gang member.

“We were given some amount of money, two of us and the 10 people who accompanied us were paid some amount, we had to set fire and run from the spot and be seen in another area. We got paid to do this by a political group. Sometimes in return for the work we do, we also get to party in their safari boats with girls and alcohol,” they added.

In other cases, gang members were paid MVR 20,000 (US$1230) to destroy shop windows.

Interviewees also stated that being offered immunity from prosecution was normally part of this deal.

Leaders, who deal directly with the politicians, were reported as earning up to MVR 1 million (US$65,000) a month via such activities.

One member even described instances where murder contracts were handed out.

“We may be given a file with all the information about the person and be told and told we may be paid in millions to carry out the killing,” explained one member.

Stabbings are commonplace and knives have become increasingly prevalent. Gun crime remains negligible, however one of the researchers was told by a gang member: “It is my fantasy to possess a gun, I had once saw a small pistol, I had it under my bike seat, it was planted but I returned it (I knew who it belonged to), that day when I saw the pistol I was so scared, but now I want a gun and I frequently fantasise of going on a killing spree, I have in my mind all those whom I will kill.”

Based on the interviews conducted, the report said that there was no evidence linking gangs to religious groups. Instead, gang members were contemptuous of the country’s religious leaders.

“We have lost respect for them (religious leaders)… their thinking is obsolete… some are even seen in videos indulging in activities prohibited in religion and the next day they are preaching… they do not act what they preach,” said one gang member.

Vicious cycle

A lack of jobs was cited as one of the major reasons for young people to join gangs.

The report highlighted problems with the legal process, which produces a criminal record – which cannot be cleared for five years –even for minor offences.

“Due to police record, we can’t get a government job,” said one interviewee. “When government does this, the private sector usually does the same.”

“Hence it’s hard to get a job if a person has a police record…so join a gang to earn money,” they said.

Whilst the minimum wage in the Maldives is MVR 2,600 (US$170), the report states that a gang member can receive up seven times this amount for illegal activities such as breaking a shop window.

Young people who opt to leave school at 16 are also described as particularly vulnerable to gang association as they are not seriously considered for employment until they turn 18.

The report did find some evidence that some gangs do attempt to find legitimate work for their members.

“We try and help the younger generation… Show them the right path… we are very proud of this… some members have respectable posts in government and some run their own business,” one gang member said.

This strong group ethic was mentioned in the report of one of the primary reason for gang membership, with the group providing a surrogate for social welfare and dysfunctional families.

Gangs were also described as providing a strong sense of identity for its members. This status is also closely linked to violence, which large gangs can then provide members with protection from.

In conclusion, the report recommended that changes be made to the way minor offences are recorded as criminal complaints.

It also argued that better re-integration programs for convicts, as well as more drug rehabilitation and vocational training programs, might help alleviate the country’s gang problem.

The report also said that greater empowerment for young people would help to generate alternative opportunities for work and that better family counselling might help potential gang members cope with death and divorce.


Gang stab minor six times

A minor aged under 18 fainted after he was stabbed six times in the back by a gang on Friday, on Izudheen Road in front of Maafannu Cemetery in Male’.

According to police, the boy was stabbed six times in his back and once in his left hand, and fainted on the spot due to the injuries.

The assailants threw away the knives they used in attack and fled on motorbikes against the one way sign boards.

People at the area carried the boy to Indira Gandi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) on a motorbike. He is currently being treated at the hospital.

In a statement, police said the case was reported to police at about 3:15pm on Friday.

Local newspapers reported that the assailants threw the knives they used in the attack into the water drain on the roa, but witnesses recovered the knives and handed them to police.

Police Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef told Minivan News that two persons had been arrested in connection with the case.

Haneef said further details about the persons arrested or the investigation could not be disclosed at the time.

‘’We will provide details later,’’ Haneef added.

On the first of this month, Ali Shifan ‘Tholhi Palay’, 33 of Fairy Corner house was stabbed to death near West Park Restaurant on Boduthakurufaanu Road.

A friend of Shifan told Minivan News at the time that Shifan was attacked while he was waiting in front of West Park Restaurant for a friend.

‘’He was having a coffee inside West Park Restaurant and went out because a friend of him was coming to see him,’’ he said. ‘’He was waiting with another friend and this group shows up with sharp weapons.’’

Last month a 21 year-old man, identified as Abdul Muheeth of G. Veyru, was rushed to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) after he was stabbed at 1:45am near the Finance Ministry building. He later died during treatment.

Police later said that the assailants mistakenly attacked him and that he had no criminal record or affiliations with gangs either.