MDA Leader Siyam acquitted of alcohol smuggling charges

Government-aligned Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) Leader Ahmed ‘Sun’ Siyam Mohamed was acquitted of alcohol possession and smuggling charges by the Criminal Court on Thursday (December 4).

Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed found the resort tycoon not guilty on the grounds that due process was not followed in accordance with the Maldives Customs Act.

The MP for Dhaalu Meedhoo was charged with smuggling and possession of alcohol in November 2013 after a ‘Johnny Walker Black’ bottle was found in his luggage at the airport upon returning from Sri Lanka in March 2012.

In June, two witnesses for the prosecution testified to finding a bottle of alcohol in Siyam’s luggage.

While the customs officers testified that they discovered the bottle when Siyam’s bag was screened, a Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL) staff member who handled the luggage said they were unaware of its contents prior to screening.

However, Siyam’s lawyer argued that the MP was being framed, noting that according to the prosecution’s witnesses the luggage was not searched in his presence.

Following multiple delays and cancellations of hearings, Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed took over the case from Judge Ahmed Sameer Abdul Aziz in May after Siyam claimed the latter’s “hand gestures and facial expressions” indicated a personal grudge against him which could lead to an unfair trial.

Siyam wrote to both the chief judge and the Supreme Court requesting the removal of Judge Sameer from his case.

Responding to criticism of the court for providing preferential treatment to the coalition leader, Judge Abdulla declared at a ceremony in September that the court would provide VIP treatment and escort persons facing trial in and out through the back door in circumstances where it sees fit.

Siyam was reportedly escorted in and out of the backdoor when he arrived at the court for a trial date and was also seated in a separate area.

The penalty for alcohol possession in the penal code is either a fine of between MVR1,000 to MVR3,000 or imprisonment, banishment or house arrest for up to three years.

Under Article 73 of the constitution, an MP convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to more than one year in prison will lose his or her seat in parliament.

Siyam’s MDA formed an alliance with the now-ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) in August to back PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen.

In March 2012, an audio clip of a conversation between Siyam and Yameen was leaked on social media, in which the pair aired grievances against PPM leader and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Related to this story

Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed takes over Sun Siyam’s case

Sun Siyam’s alcohol possession trial delayed again


Exports decline 48 percent in October, but revenue rises

The Maldives Customs Service has revealed that exports in October decreased by 48 percent compared to the same period last year.

While MVR131.3 million worth of goods were exported in October 2014 – compared to MVR251.3 million in October 2013 – revenue collected grew by 8 percent.

“The main reason for this reduction is largely due to the fact that export of frozen skipjack and frozen yellowfin tuna decreased by a large extent this October when compared to the same period last year,” reads a statement from customs.

“Total revenue collected during October 2014 has increased by 8% compared to the same period last year. A total of MVR170.8 million was collected as customs duty and other charges this October while this figure stood at MVR158.3 million for the same period last year.”

Imports meanwhile increased four percent in October compared to the same period last year.

“Looking at the distribution of imports in October 2014, fuel was the most imported item with a CIF [Cost, insurance, and freight] value of MVR625.7 million which accounts for 23% of the total imports for the period. This is followed by food items and machinery and electronics with CIF value of MVR508.1 million (19%) and MVR444.2 million (17%) respectively.”


Revenue collected by customs increased 17 percent in first quarter

Total revenue of the Maldives Customs Service (MCS) in the first quarter of 2014 increased 17 percent compared to the same period the previous year.

The MCS revealed yesterday that a total of MVR424.9 million worth of custom duties and other charges – fees and fines – was collected in the first quarter this year while MVR363.3 million was collected in the first quarter of 2013.

“The total CIF [cost, insurance and freight] value of goods imported has also increased by 11 percent during 2014Q1, when compared to 2013Q1,” MCS said.

“Total imports measured MVR7.2 billion during 2014Q1, while it was MVR6.5 billion during the same period last year.”

One-third of the MVR7.2 billion worth goods imported during the first quarter represented importation of petroleum products.

“The second most imported category of goods was food items, which accounted 20 percent of total imports, followed by machinery and electronics which shared 14 percent of total imports,” MCS noted.

“Exports, on the other hand, have declined by 25 percent  during 2014Q1, compared to 2013Q1. Total FOB value of goods sold abroad valued MVR 752.5 million in 2013Q1. However, this figure decreased to MVR 562.2 million in 2014Q1. Approximately 70 percent of goods imported during 2014Q1 were sourced from 5 countries and 64 percent of goods exported from Maldives were bought by 5 countries.”


World’s largest floating book fair docks in Malé

Additional reporting by Daniel Bosley

The Logos Hope – dubbed the “world’s largest floating book fair” – operated by the German Christian charitable organization GBA Ships is currently visiting the Maldives as part of the vessel’s tour around the world.

According to the Logos Hope website, the original Logos had visited the country forty years ago – in 1973.

“Many in the Maldives still remember stepping on board Logos as children in 1973 or the visit of Doulos in 1998,” read a statement released on the group’s website.

“It is very special that we can return after many years with a bigger ship,” Logos Hope Director Lloyd Nicholas was quoted as saying.

“It’s a newer ship but still with the same purpose, same good books and with a desire to serve in the countries Logos Hope visits.” He added.

Beginning life as a car ferry in 1973, the vessel spent its first 30 operating ferry services around northern Europe and Scandinvia, before being bought and refurbished by GBA Ships in 2003 .

After the completion of renovations in 2009, the Logos Hope has travelled the globe – taking in the Caribbean, the Middle East and South East Asia – promoting GBA’s goal of spreading education and quality literature.

GBA – Gute Bücher für Alle or ‘Good Books for All’ – claims to have welcomed over 42 million people in 150 countries aboard its numerous vessels since 1970, making 1400 ports of call, and offering training to around 10,000 young people.

An official reception was held yesterday to open the book fair which was attended by Minister of Youth & Sports, Mohamed Maleeh Jamal, as well as other senior government officials

A large number of Maldivians were seen boarding the ship and buying books as well as enjoying the cheap coffee available at the ship’s International Cafe’ – staffed by the Logos Hope’s all-volunteer crew.

Minivan News observed that all purchases made from the ship were checked by customs official present, before being taken out of the ship. According to an official on the Vessel, all purchases above MVR6,000 (US$389.10) were subject to custom duties.

Some book shelves on board had been sealed off, making their content unavailable to Maldivian visitors. GBA normally makes Christian literature available to shoppers, however, materials deemed “offensive to Islam” are prohibited in the Maldives.

According to the organisation’s website, Logos Hopes book fair will be open to the public until the evening of Friday, December 20. The ship is docked in Malé’s commercial harbour area.


CRC begins ‘Healthy Lifestyle Program’ for customs staff

The Maldives Customs Service has launched a healthy and fitness program for staff, reports Miadhu.

The program, named ‘Healthy Lifestyle Program’, is part of the ‘Sports for All’ national program being organised by the Customs Recreation Club (CRC) with the collaboration of the Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and Sports.

The program aims to increase the level of education and awareness of health issues among customs staff.

A basic fitness-awareness course will begin shortly, after which participants will continue with a gym instructor.