Police charges Ahmed Niyaz with Laamu Gan murder case

Police have asked the Prosecutor General’s office to charge Ahmed Niyaz, 28 of Gan in Laamu Atoll, with the murder case of Mohamed Hassan of the same island.

Hassan was killed while he was sleeping on March 12, 2013.

According to police, at around 11:25pm Niyaz hit Mohamed Hassan in the head whilst he was sleeping. He died the following day after failing to survive the injuries received.

Police said the case was investigated by police Serious and Organized Crime department and sent to the PG’s office on November 26.

Niyaz is still in police custody.

Furthermore, the police said Niyaz had previous records of assault, battery and robbery.

On March 13, Hassan, aged 51, died in the ICU of Indira Gandi memorial Hospital (IGMH) with injuries to the right side of his head which caused serious injuries to his skull.

His condition was critical and doctors did not allow him to be transferred abroad for further treatment.

The Laamu Gan Regional Hospital Manager told local media at the time that that the victim’s nose and ears were bleeding continuously when he was admitted to hospital

Sources from the island told Minivan News that the victim was having an affair with a woman living in the house he was sleeping in.

The source said one of the woman’s sons was arrested in connection with the case.

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CCHDC allays fears of disease outbreak

The Centre for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC) has allayed fears of an outbreak of diseases in islands affected by flooding caused by heavy rainfall last week.

At a press conference on Sunday, Fathmath Nazla Rafeeq, officer in charge at the CCHDC, said the biggest threat was the spread of diarrhea caused by damaged sewage systems in islands hit hardest by the flooding.

She revealed that there was an outbreak of fever in the island of Kelaa in Haa Alif atoll. The centre has supplied chlorine and medicines to the island in the northernmost atoll, she added.

Nazla also appealed to the public to be wary of the spread of dengue by taking measures to prevent mosquito breeding.

Meanwhile, the Maldives Red Crescent sent teams of volunteers to Haa Alif Hoarafushi, Haa Dhaal Hanimaadhoo and Laamu Gan reportedly to provide information on prevention of communicable diseases and managing hygiene.

The teams will also participate in cleaning up efforts, the Red Crescent said in a press release, including 45 trained volunteers working at Hoarafushi to assess the cost of damages caused by severe flooding.

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Push for mid-market tourism starts in Laamu Gan

The Maldives first resort-style tourist guest house to operate on a local inhabited island opened yesterday on Laamu Atoll Gan Island, the Maldives largest island (six kilometres squared) and three times the size of capitol Male’.

President Mohamed Nasheed attended the opening of Reveries Diving Village along with over 600 island residents, several government officials and a few representatives from neighboring resort Six Senses Laamu.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, President Nasheed said the guest house would benefit the island by providing jobs and boosting local industrial activity and income.

At the moment, a majority of the guest house is staff is Maldivian. “They are a very friendly group, not terribly experienced but very willing,” said Reveries Manager Boris A. Salam.

President Nasheed elaborated that industrial expansion on islands is directly proportional to government priority. To support development on all islands, the government is obliged to provide clean water, efficient sewerage systems and durable roads for its people, he said.

Reveries Diving Village was designed by a Maldivian architect and developed by BISON Maldives Pvt Ltd; it is owned by BISON Chairman Abdul Majeed. The President pointed out that Reveries is part of a larger push to expand tourism to inhabited islands and incorporate local businesses in the nation’s leading industry.

Re-inventing the Maldives’ traditional “one island one resort” theme, Reveries encourages guests to explore the local side of Gan through sight-seeing excursions, picnics, fishing trips and meals at local cafes, while maintaining a variety of standard resort services including a spa, conference facilities, PADI certified dive school and water sports facilities.

The location will also likely attract an ambitious surf community–famous surf points Yin Yang, Isdhoo Bank and Refugees Lefts are easy to access.

Offering 25 guest rooms and one villa for under US$200 per night (Rf 3000) and compliant with Shariah-based regulations, Reveries aims to serve the needs of vacationers, business folk and backpackers alike–foreign and Maldivian.

“The island life and serenity of Laamu Gan, added with the unique features such as a mythical freshwater lake that is estimated to be 60 meters deep and old Buddhist Temple ruins add distinctive value to any traveler,” reads a press release.

Manager Salam said he had received positive feedback about the guest house’s humble intent. “People said that from the outside the building doesn’t look like much, it could be anything. But when they come in they’re very nicely surprised, the design immediately makes you feel cozy,” he said, observing that the public beach area in front of the house adds a neighborhood feel.

Reveries is part of a string of recent developments on Laamu Gan, which is connected by causeways and bridges to three other islands in the atoll forming a total land area of approximately nine kilometres. The domestic airport on nearby Kadhoo island affords easy transportation to and from capital Male’, located 250 km to the North.

Harbours and a hospital developed by the French Red Cross have improved the economy and lifestyle of Laamu residents, and an international school is also expected to open this year.

The addition of Reveries appears to please Laamu residents. Reveries Manager Boris A. Salam said “people are curious, they’ve been popping in during the development stage to see what’s happening.”

According to a press release one lifetime resident, Hussein, said, “this is the happiest I have been after the opening of the airport. It will create a lot of jobs and opportunities for small business to grow. The success of Reveries will surely bring more investments to the region.”

Reveries plans to develop a second property in Laamu Gan later this year with Amin Construction Pvt. Ltd. The property will offer 20 rooms in 6 villas, along with a swimming pool and other food and beverage facilities.

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Government misled by NDMC’s management of Moreway money

Senior members of Moreway Construction Company and the National Disaster Management Center (NDMC) have been implicated by employees of NDMC and the French Red Cross (FRC) for their alleged corrupt involvement in a 2005 Laamu Gan tsunami housing project.

“Moreway is a scapegoat for forgeries and fabrications committed by the Arif brothers Ahmed and Abdullah, and Mohamed ‘Dhigali’ Waheed,” alleged one member of the business community familiar with the individuals, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Dhigali is a former shareholder and current executive manager of Moreway Construction. Ahmed Arif owns Apollo Holdings Company, which has been linked to Moreway, while Abdullah Arif, formerly director of Moreway Arun Excello, today holds shares in Lotus Company.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) recently entered NDMC with police forensics experts to review files relating to a Rf18 million (US$1.16 million) payment issued to Moreway by the government in May. The ACC stopped a second payment of Rf15 million (US$973,000) in August on suspicion of corruption.

In 2005, the FRC tendered a US$7 million post-tsunami housing project for Laamu Gan, accepting bids from several companies, including Moreway, in a joint venture with Indian company Arun Excello and local company Aima. Although the project initially proposed 460 houses, complaints of insufficient conditions and finances prompted the FRC to reduce that number to 240.

NDMC Senior Project Manager Mohamed Waheed said Moreway’s complaints of insufficient financing and obstacles to construction prevented the company from fulfilling its contract, although at the time, claimed Waheed, imported materials were duty-free. A former employee of the French Red Cross, Adam, added that Red Cross site inspections and budget plans were nearly fool-proof. But “they were always demanding money from FRC, they had all kinds of excuses,” said Waheed.

Meanwhile, Arun Excello had abandoned the project mid-way due to frustrations with Moreway, incurring a loss of US$300,000.

Representatives at Arun Excello had not responded to inquiries at time of press.

After building 80 houses, Moreway’s contract was terminated by the FRC and the project handed over to Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) under the government’s remit.

Moreway was subsequently sued by NDMC on behalf of the Maldivian government for losses incurred by the unfinished project. In November 2007, the Civil Court delivered a verdict requiring Moreway to pay US$2.3 million to the government and granting NDMC the right to sell Moreway property at their construction site if the money was not paid within one month.

Sources say the money, due four years ago, has not yet been paid.

“Misleading” letters

Although payments were released to Moreway this year by the Finance Ministry, Waheed claimed that the government has been misinformed.

On April 19, 2011, Deputy Minister of Housing and Environment Ahmed Zaki sent a letter to Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz stating that a sixth invoice submitted by Moreway in March 2007 had yet to be paid, and requested that the ministry release the funds.

In response, Inaz said budget constraints prevented the money being allocated to NDMC, “so, money is to be paid from the NDMC budget.”

Further letters obtained by Waheed illustrate government confusion around the issue. In what Waheed called “misleading letters” between the Finance Ministry and NDMC, NDMC personnel requested the government to pay expired contractor invoices for a project which it had not tendered. At Zaki’s suggestion, the Finance Ministry reallocated money for current housing projects in Dhuvaafaru and Vilufushi to facilitate these payments, which were made using the current dollar-rufiyaa exchange rate.

Although the first payment voucher, processed in May, required Mohamed Waheed’s authorisation, his name had been crossed out and replaced by Deputy Minister Adam Saaed’s, who authorised the voucher along with Zaki.

Asked why this had been done, Waheed speculated that “they thought I wouldn’t sign it, and since Saeed is a friend of Zaki’s they had him sign it. I don’t think he even knew about it, maybe he signed it without thinking much.”

Meanwhile, documents used to obtain these payments are in dubious standing. Waheed points out that only copies were submitted to the Finance Ministry. “Who will accept invoice copies these days? Not even a small child!”

FRC officials also pointed out that the invoices had long been considered invalid.

Emails exchanged between Waheed, FRC senior project manager Brett Campbell and FRC construction coordinator Xavier Chanraud confirmed that all legitimate invoices from Moreway had been paid in full by the time FRC closed its housing projects and left the Maldives.

Chanraud recently stated that, “The FRC has closed all of its housing projects in the Maldives years ago and has already paid 100 percent of its contracts value through NDMC, which includes all defect liability retentions to the contractors. I do not think those invoices are still eligible, especially if rejected four years ago by the NDMC for technical reasons.”

Campbell added that the Civil Court’s verdict against Moreway indicated that “not further payments were due to Moreway.”

In reference to requests for additional payments for access road construction, Campbell said those claims were “discussed at length” and “deemed to be a contractor’s cost.”

Then NDMC Chief Coordinator Abdulla Shahid allegedly rejected the invoices at the time on similar grounds.

“It is questionable how these invoices made headway into NDMC budget section [in 2011],” Waheed wrote in a statement. “These are not outstanding payments to Moreway as one would think and FRC does not recognise these invoices as pending.”

When the invoice for a second payment was authorised by Zaki and NDMC chief coordinator Sheikh Ilyas Hussain and submitted to the Finance Ministry, Inaz questioned its validity against Moreway’s pending debt to the government.

Zaki then took the invoice with comments from NDMC Finance Director Mohamed Shiyam’s desk and passed a new copy to someone else for processing, Waheed alleged. Copies of both invoices with clear discrepancies were shown to Minivan News in private interviews.

The Maldives’ current Red Cross affiliate office, the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC), was unable to comment on the case.

A blind spot

Sources at NDMC and formerly the FRC agreed the previous regime’s corrupt reputation has left the current government with a blind spot.

“At the time, the government was too corrupt to get money for projects,” said Waheed. “So the FRC was funding the project, but after Moreway could not complete the project FRC left and the government stepped in.”

Government bias may have pervaded the project from the start, however. Moreway’s original bid was rejected over a fake bank guarantee, Waheed pointed out, and the company had to go to court to clear its name before re-submitting its bid.

“This is how things were done then, I don’t know why Moreway was selected but that was Gayoom’s regime,” he said.

Internal complications at the Red Cross were also rumored, although a source familiar with the operation could not confirm the reports.

For Adam, the central issue in the Moreway case is ignorance. “GoM does not understand the discrepancies in payments and procedures, and has not been properly informed of the project, so it is being charged for variations that were not approved by FRC,” he said.

According to Adam, the “local procedure” leaves project tendering and awarding to the Ministry and does not include consultants. It is “the only procedure Maldivians know,” and supports a “culture of embezzling state funds” whereby invoices are frequently submitted, rarely checked, and often paid.

FRC’s procedure is more meticulous and independent, Adam explained. Consultants are included in the bid review process, and officials at local and international FRC offices review projects alongside NDMC officials and consultants.

Had the government been more aware of FRC’s procedures, Adam said it would have noticed that the recently-paid invoice had not been signed by a consultant or passed through the review process at FRC.

The trickle-down effect

Distribution of the Rf18 million (US$110,000) is unclear. One source said it was obvious to anyone familiar with the business community that Dhigali “has profited personally, that he is a crooked businessman is known across the whole Maldives.”

A source familiar with the business community implicated Dhigali in a check fraud case involving companies Apollo and Lotus. The Arif brothers are currently shareholders in Lotus, and were allegedly issued a bad check by Apollo, in which Dhigali is a shareholder.

Other sources believe that anyone involved in processing the payments has also received a share.

The Arif brothers, said to have split associations with Dhigali earlier this year, were reportedly unaware that the payments were made. Ahmed Arif avoided scheduled interviews with Minivan News, and Dhigali did not respond to phone calls.

To date, Moreway’s debt of US$2.3 million has not been paid.

Breaking the Silence

“This is a big fraud and corruption case involving senior members at the government and at NDMC,” said Waheed, who said he suspects political tensions could make the ACC’s investigation difficult. “I’ve told Ilyas and Zaki not to do this. But Ilyas said he is helpless because he is not part of the ruling party. Zaki is MDP, though, and I think the two don’t want to have a conflict.”

While Waheed believes the ACC “is now more professional than before, and we should attach some faith to their investigation,” he chose not to report his findings to the commission.

Instead, he wrote to the President. “Because this involves so many government members I thought it was best to go to the government first, before reporting anything to an outside body. But when I spoke with them they were nervous, they didn’t want this thing to be talked about.”

Minister Inaz had not responded to phone calls at time of press, and Ilyas refused to speak to Minivan News. Deputy Minister Zaki denied all allegations.

ACC’s investigation of NDMC is currently underway.

Correciton: Previously, this article stated “Zaki then took the invoice with comments from Inaz’s desk and passed a new copy to someone else for processing.”

It should have read, “Zaki then took the invoice with comments from NDMC Finance Director Mohamed Shiyam’s desk and passed a new copy to someone else for processing.”

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Attackers burn sleeping woman with electric wires

A sleeping woman was badly burned after a group of men broke into her house at night and tied live wires to her feet.

Police said the group entered her house in Laamu atoll on Wednesday night and tied the wires to her toes, then connected it with mains electricity.

Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the 35 year old woman suffered cuts and burns to her legs.

”They used electric wires and live electricity to create the shock,” he said.

Person in-charge of Laamu Gan Regional Hospital, Ali Faisal, said the shock had badly burned the toes on the woman’s left foot. He added that she had now been discharged.

Haveeru reported that the woman was still unable to walk.

Police are investigating the case but no arrests have been made so far.

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