Fishing vessel fined MVR700,000 for illegal long line fishing

The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture has fined a fishing vessel MVR700,00 (US$45,000) for partaking in illegal long line fishing.

A press statement from the ministry stated that the vessel, though licensed to operate in the Maldives, was fishing inside the economic boundaries within which long line fishing is illegal.

The Maldives Fisheries Act states that long line fishing can only be done by license holders 100 miles offshore in areas under the jurisdiction of the Indian Ocean tuna commission.

The fisheries ministry also noted that the offending vessel only sunk the long line to a depth of 36 meters, while the regulation states the long line has to be sunk up to 60 meters.

The ministry said that ensuring that vessels operating in the country are following the due procedure is one of the main priorities of the ministry along with the National Coast Guard.

Fisheries minister Dr Mohamed Shainee has pledged to take stronger measures against illegal fishing than his predecessors.


Government reaffirms commitment to protect migrant workers

Speaking at the ‘Workshop on Migration Processes and Policies in the Maldives’ held yesterday (August 21) in Malé, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon emphasised the importance of addressing the gaps in the law and issues in its implementation.

The minister reiterated the commitment of President Abdulla Yameen, to address the issues and challenges with regard to migration management in the Maldives.

She thanked the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Development Fund for its assistance in protecting the rights of migrant workers and welcomed the recommendations detailed in the initial findings report, “A Review of Migration Management Processes and Policies in the Maldives”.

Ahmed Amjad of the Friendship Association of India and Maldives told Minivan News that the seminars hosted by IOM in January had been very effective.

Speaking at the event, Dunya stressed the importance of striking the right balance between excessive permeability of the borders, with excessively regulated migrant labour markets and having safeguards to prevent exploitation of the system by both employers and migrant workers.

Furthermore, Dunya emphasised the importance of distinguishing illegal migrants and undocumented workers, and orienting policies accordingly.

Highlighting the fact that the majority of migrant workers in the Maldives are from Bangladesh, Dunya stated that the study tour to Bangladesh, conducted in May this year for Maldivian Government officials, contributed immensely towards the work of the government with regards to migration management.

Earlier this year the Department of Immigration and Emigration deported 6,400 migrant workers between January and July and was holding 159 workers in detention as of July 22.

According to the department, barring a handful arrested on criminal offenses, all were undocumented – some having worked illegally for up to 12 years.

The current special operation to deport undocumented workers was announced on April 24, with Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim – also in charge of the immigration department – promising “the whole [of] Malé will be cleaned [of migrant workers]” within three weeks.

The 2014 US State Department’s Trafficking In Persons Report highlighted lack of procedures to identify victims among vulnerable populations, and inadequate training for officials.

The report stated that “the government penalized some victims for offenses committed as a result of being trafficked and also deported thousands of migrants without adequately screening for indications of forced labor.”


Slow Loris spared euthanasia by UK conservationist group

The slow loris illegally trafficked into the Maldives has been spared euthanasia after Monkey World – a center for abused and neglected primates – offered to re-home the animal at their sanctuary in Dorset, England.

“This has never been done before, to move endangered species overseas from the Maldives. This has been an amazing, unprecedented international effort,” Dr Alison Cronin, Director of Monkey World told the press in Malé today (August 13).

The small primate, which is an Appendix I listed species of CITES – giving it the highest level of protection in international trade of wildlife – was discovered during a police raid in the capital in January.

Shazra Shihab from the Ministry of Environment and Energy explained that the government had been trying to rehome the animal ever since, but had struggled due to issues relating to costs, transportation, and the loris’s unknown country of origin.

“However, with tireless dedication from one party, and cooperation from all relevant government organisations of both countries, as well as dedication from other involved parties on both sides, we have now found a home for the slow loris,” she added.

“I first heard that the Bengal Loris had been confiscated in the Maldives by colleagues who work in Asia rescuing wildlife,” Dr Cronin told Minivan News.

The animal will now be taken back to the UK and paired with another of its species, she explained.

“We believe this to be a male Loris, and we have a home for it in England with a female Loris, so he will have a wife,” Dr Cronin added.

“We’ve been doing this work around the world for more than 25 years and I was impressed, heart-warmed and felt that everybody here deserved support and encouragement for what they’ve done.”

Echoing Dr Cronin’s sentiments, Gabriella Tamási from the International Airline Group IAG Cargo remarked, “this is totally unprecedented, what we have done to transport the slow loris, as currently our travel operations in the Maldives are not approved for live animal transport.”

Illegal slow loris trade

The illegal Loris pet trade boomed after video clips which depict the animals as a cute and docile pets went viral. However, the video craze has obscured the trauma and suffering that the animals endure at the hands of illegal traffickers.

Far from its cuddly depiction, the Loris secretes toxins on its wrists which – when combined with their saliva – deliver a toxic and very harmful bite, Dr Cronin explained.

“Most commonly what happens is they get grabbed and somebody forces their mouth open, and they take large fingernail clippers and simply cut the animals teeth off at the gum line.”

“It’s a very bloody, painful and horrible process, leaving the animal crippled,” revealed Dr Cronin.

According to Dr Cronin, the Bengal slow loris in the Maldives has not been checked over yet, as she prefers to minimise the stress for the animal during the transportation process.

“The last thing it needs is more stress,” she stated, “we’ll wait until we get it back to Monkey World.”

Dr Cronin also revealed plans to check the slow loris’ DNA once back in the UK, to find out the animal’s country of origin, which may then present the possibility to a return to the wild.

“Everybody in the Maldives can feel pleased and proud of both the law enforcement and the government ministry for bothering to stick with this for so long,“ Dr Cronin concluded.


Negotiations to re-home slow loris continue

Negotiations for the re-homing of the slow loris are continuing after another offer for relocating the illegally imported animal appeared to have stalled.

After new inquiries from the UK regarding the possible re-homing of the endangered animal, the Ministry of Environment has revealed that communication with prospective new carers has broken down.

The mission to re-home the slow loris has proven difficult since the illegally trafficked animal – who was discovered in the Maldives during a drugs raid by police in January – has no formal paperwork or certified country of origin.

The Ministry of Environment subsequently considered euthanasia based on a number of factors which made re-homing the animal both difficult and costly.

The media coverage of this decision and an online petition drew further attention to the matter, resulting in various international partners expressing an interest in rehoming the endangered primate.

The Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN) had originally offered a home at the Slow Loris Rehabilitation Centre in Jakarta, though recent correspondence obtained by Minivan News has revealed that they are unable to repatriate the creature as it is not native to Indonesia.

More recently, an offer was received from the UK-based Monkey World Ape and Rescue Centre, who suggested that the Jim Cronin Memorial Fund for Primate Welfare & Conservation may be able to cover the costs if a location could be secured.

Correspondence between JAAN and the Maldives government had previously revealed that the country was unprepared to meet any of the costs for sending the animal abroad.

“We do not have loris at Monkey World, nor do we have empty facilities that could taken long-term,” wrote an official from Monkey World. “However we would be very happy to assist and I have already contacted colleagues in the zoo world to find out if there is a good home for this individual.”

“I am also happy to organise the paperwork on this end (if UK CITES authorities will give us an import licence) and we could possibly even do the quarantine period (4 months) here at the park if there is a permanent home in another location thereafter.”

Despite these initial positive emails exchanged, the Ministry of Environment has confirmed with Minivan News today that no further correspondence has since been received from Monkey World.

Meanwhile, the Maldives National Defence Force has denied reports that new parties have shown an interest in relocating the corocodile – or ‘Kinboo’ – currently under its care in Malé.

A protest took place last week outside the enclosure – in the children’s park – where the Kinboo has been kept since its discovery on the coast of a local island in 1998.

“Some groups have shown interest in the crocodile since the day it was caught, but it quickly faded away,” said MNDF Deputy Spokesman Captain Ali Ihusaan. “We have not received any new interest recently.”

The crocodile has attracted a number of protests, including one led by the Billabong International school in 2010, which drew attention to the small cage and bad conditions the animal has been kept in.

Speaking with Minivan News today, an official from the Ministry of Environment said that promises to rehome the Kinboo had repeatedly run into problems.

“In the past years there have been many unsuccessful attempts to send it abroad,” the source stated.

“One of the reason being that it needs to be air lifted by a specialised air craft which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Another reason again is that it is of unknown origin.”


Police charge six Maldivians, six Indians with smuggling drugs

Police have forwarded the names of six Maldivian and six Indian nationals to the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) in connection to the smuggling of nine kilograms of illegal drugs into the country in November 2012 on a cargo boat named Ms Silver Cloud.

In a statement issued today, the police identified the six Maldivians as Ali Imran, 45, of Mahchangolhi Coconut House; Ibrahim Shihab, 25, of Villingili; Ilyas Ahmed, 29, of Henveiru Kahafathi; Hassan Shimaz, 28, of Mahchangolhi Canovo House; Mohamed Hameed, 27, of Rathafandhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll; and Ahmed Visam, 28, of Maafannu Boiling House.

The Indian nationals were identified as Sahubarali Abubaidha, 54; S.Mariya Anthony Christo, 27; Anthony Selvoraj, 58; D.Silva Paruthipan, 28; A. Kingston, 29; and M. Anantha Kurmar, 23.

The police stated that these men were apprehended on 27 November 2012 in a joint special operation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Department (DED) and the Customs Service.

According to the statement, they were alleged to have been caught in the act of throwing the drugs onto Boduthakurufaanu Magu over the Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) wall, with Maldivian men waiting on Boduthakurufaanu Magu to receive it.
Police said some of them were already leaving the area after receiving the drugs when police arrested them.

Those found on the boat were searched under a warrant, and police discovered 9kg of illegal drugs which tested positive to cannabis and diamorphin.

Police said that all the Maldivians arrested in connection with the case had previous records of theft and drugs recorded at police.

‘Silver Cloud 49’, is a vessel used to carry goods from India to the Maldives. In November last year it came to the Maldives to unload eggs, potatoes, and onions that were to be brought to the Maldives from Tuticorin port in India.
On November 28, 2012, police told the media that one of the six suspects was arrested on allegations that he was the ringleader responsible for trafficking illegal drugs into the Maldives.

Police said the man was arrested while he was inside a room at Kunnumalaage in Maafannu ward.

When police officers searched Kunnumalaage they discovered more than MVR1million, US$11,318, and EUR 39,725, as well as currencies of 11 other nations, police said.

Police at the time searched other houses in connection with the case including coconut House in Mahchangolhi Ward and Moonlight View in Galolhu Ward.

According to police, officers discovered a further MVR134,050, US$2,200, and tools used to pack drugs in Coconut House.

The police also released the video footage of the operation.

Deputy Police Commissioner Hussain Waheed at the time tweeted that the street value of the drugs discovered during the operation would reach over MVR 10million (US$648,000).


Four arrested in guesthouse raid on charges of prostitution

Four people were arrested in a guesthouse raid by police on Tuesday night (March 19) as part of an ongoing operation to curb prostitution in Male’.

The latest arrests take place just one week after police raided ‘Roma Beauty and Wellness Centre’ – a beauty salon in Male’ – and arrested 10 individuals on charges of prostitution.

Local media reported that the Tuesday night raid took place at a local guesthouse called ‘Relax @ Kangaroo Inn’ located on Dhiggaamaage in the Heniveru ward of Male’.

Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef said today (March 20) that two Maldivian men and two Thai women were arrested on Tuesday night around 8:30pm in an “intelligence-led operation”.

“Police received an arrest warrant before raiding one of the rooms within the guesthouse, where the suspects were found naked and engaged in sexual activity.

“Following a search of the room, a number of [sex] toys and over MVR 4000 (US$260) were found by police,” Haneef told Minivan News.

Refuting a report in SunOnline that claimed the Relax @ Kangaroo Inn guesthouse was being run as a brothel, Haneef stated: “We never made a comment to suggest that claim.”

Manager of Relax @ Kangaroo Inn Mohamed Hamid confirmed to Minivan News today that the premises had been raided by police.

“We had no idea that the two men had been with prostitutes at the guest house. The police just came, took them outside and then they were gone,” he added.

Last week, four Maldivians, four Thai women and two Bangladeshi men were arrested in the beauty salon raid.

Police claimed that when police raided the salon four of the 10 people inside the premises were naked and involved in sexual activities.

When police searched the premises of Roma Beauty and Wellness Centre they discovered MVR13,000 (US$845) and “tools used for sexual activities”.

Police said the office of Roma Beauty and Wellness Centre was also searched, where police discovered “other items’’ in connection with the case.


Bangladeshi man sentenced to life for attempting to smuggle cannabis

The Criminal Court has sentenced a Bangladeshi national to life, after the court found him guilty of attempting to smuggle cannabis into the Maldives.

According to police, the man was charged with attempting to smuggle drugs on October 2010.

The police identified the Bangladeshi man as Sumon Miah, 24.

Sumon arrived to Maldives on 18 October 2010 on Qatar Airways Flight QR380 at 7:40am in the morning from Doha.

The illegal drugs were found inside a plastic bag wrapped in carbon paper that was attached below his luggage, the police said.

The drugs were then handed to the police forensic department that tested the drugs and weighed them.

Police found that the drugs he was carrying were 730.80 grams of ‘Cannabis buds’.

Police concluded investigation into the case and sent it to Prosecutor General on November 2010.

The media reported that two customs officials today told the court the Bangladeshi man arrived on a Qatar Airwaya flight and customs officials searched his luggage on his arrival in his presence and discovered illegal narcotics.

When Customs Officials questioned him about the discovered items, he said it belonged to him, local newspapers reported.

Another Maldivian man was also sentenced to life in prison after the court found him guilty of possessing illegal drugs for the purpose of dealing.

The person was identified in the local media as Mohamed Rasheed Abdul Bagir.

In addition to the sentence for possessing drugs for dealing, he received 10 years imprisonment for possessing an illegal drug without doctor’s prescription.

According to media reports, the man was arrested inside a restaurant on 12 March 2011 and the drugs were found inside a packet in his pocket.


MMC members received almost Rf 1 million in illegal “living allowances”, finds Auditor General

Members of the Maldives Media Council (MMC) have been illegally receiving a living allowance of Rf 7500 (US$500) in addition to their monthly salaries, according to an audit report for the year prepared by the Auditor General’s office.

The Auditor General’s report noted that the article 19[a] of MMC Act states that salaries of Council’s Chair, Vice Chair and members shall be determined by the parliament, and that the salary for the council member determined by the parliament on January 2011 was Rf 8000 (US$533) for the Chair of the Council, Rf 6500 (US$433) for the Vice Chair, and Rf 5000 (US$333) for each council member.

The report observed that council members started receiving the allowance on January 20, 2011, after the Chair of the Council sent a signed memo to the council’s corporate affairs unit.

The Auditor General at the time was aware of the matter and forwarded the case to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and on February 17, 2011, the ACC sent a letter to the council asking it to stop claiming the allowance until the ACC concluded the case.

‘’On February 20, the council members held their 7th meeting of the year and in the meeting all members voted that there was no reason why the council should follow instructions as in the letter sent by the ACC,’’ the audit report noted.

On April 20 council members decided not to receive the allowance, after they were asked by ACC to discontinue a second time. The MMC then sent letters to council members asking them to return the amounts they had received as living allowances – by now a total of almost a million rufiya, in addition to their salaries.

According to the Auditor General’s report, the council members did not receive the living allowance for six months from May to August. However a lump sum for six months worth of the living allowance sum was included in council members’ salaries for August – a total of Rf 45,000 (US$2900) for each council member.

The report also stated that by the end of August the council had spent a total Rf9 00000 (US$60,000) on paying members living allowances.

The Auditor General’s report stated that the living allowance was an illegal expense, despite parliament approving the MMC’s budget including the allowance, and noted that the MMC had behaved inappropriately for an institution that was required by nature to have the trust and confidence of the public.

Chair of the MMC Mohamed Nazeef told Minivan News that the issue “had been solved”, and that “some” of the council members had now returned the money they received as living allowances.


Police arrest man with illegal drugs

A man was apprehended by police yesterday afternoon for being allegedly involved in selling and using illegal drugs.

The man was caught by Seenu, Gan police with seven packets of illegal drugs while he was waiting near Maradhoo Harbour waiting for his motorcycle. Police were searching for two people reported to have gone to Maradhoo to sell drugs.

Police found Rf12,945 in cash in the man’s pocket as well as the packets of drugs.

Police in Gan, along with the Drug Enforcement Department of Maldives Police Service are investigating the case.