MP ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam faces trial over alcohol possession

MP Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam Mohamed has been charged with smuggling and possession of alcohol after a liquor bottle was found in his luggage in March 2012.

According to local media reports, the Criminal Court has scheduled the first hearing of the case for 9:00am on Thursday (November 7).

A bottle of alcohol was allegedly discovered in the tourism tycoon’s bag when it was screened at the airport upon his return from a trip overseas.

While police concluded the investigation and forwarded the case to the Prosecutor General’s Office last year, it was initially sent back in August 2012 to clarify further information.

The case was filed at court by the PG office over a year and a half after the incident.

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.

MPs Abdulla Jabir and Hamid Abdul Ghafoor of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party are also currently facing charges of alcohol possession following their arrest on an uninhabited picnic island in November 2012.

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.

The MP for Dhaal Meedhoo is the leader of Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) – which has 7,537 registered members and three MPs – and founder of the Sun Travel and Tours company.

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

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

In the leaked audio, Shiyam expressed disappointment with the former president for refusing to issue him a diplomatic passport and grant land for a boat yard in the industrial island of Thilafushi.

“These are the only two favours I ever asked of Maumoon,” Shiyam said.

“Once [Gayoom] took me to Singapore on some trip. All the vice presidents [of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party] went. All of them had red passports [diplomatic passports]. We went and I was given a very average room. Even when I travel on my personal business, I don’t stay in anything but a suite. So I went and said it is a very small room, I cannot stay there. They told me that was how it had been booked. So I told them to give me the presidential suite. I stayed in a suite bigger than Maumoon’s. Dr Shaheed [foreign minister under both Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed] and others ridiculed me quite a bit,” Shiyam said.

After Shiyam returned, he met with Gayoom and told him, “I am this party’s [DRP’s] vice-president. You have given red passports to many businessmen, and ordinary people as well. I would like one as well. And he told me he could not do so under the law.”

Yameen replied saying that arranging for a diplomatic passport was a small matter and that “it’s no issue at all.”


MDA and PPM successfully conclude coalition talks

Coalition talks have been finalised between the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) ahead of next month’s presidential elections.

Following local media reports, PPM MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that, after many meetings regarding the proper alignment of the parties, the details of the arrangement had been successfully negotiated.

“We have no more details at the moment,” said Nihan. “There will be an official announcement soon.” He added that the details would also include plans for cooperation heading into next year’s parliamentary elections – scheduled for May.

The PPM and MDA currently have 22,660 and 7,904 members, respectively, whilst the former is currently the second largest party in the Majlis, behind the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

The MDA’s decision to find a coalition partner was announced earlier this month. The party’s legitimacy has come under threat this year as the People’s Majlis passed legislation requiring all registered political parties to have a minimum of 10,000 members.

The MDA is the country’s newest political party having been founded last year by Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam, Managing Director of both Sun Travel Investments Pvt and Sun Travel and Tours Pvt. Shiyam’s party will now throw its support behind PPM Presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen.

The news of an MDA-PPP alliance has prompted the resurfacing of documents on social media regarding transactions between the STO and Sun Investments between 2003 and 2005.

Yameen, half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was also head of the State Trading Organisation (STO) between 1990 and 2006. The state owned STO is charged with sustainably supplying food and fuel to the Maldives.

In 2010, an asset tracing investigation into the STO’s accounts by forensic accountancy firm Grant Thornton revealed the use of interest-free loans to Sun Investments, amongst others, in order to acquire foreign currency.

“Loans were granted in Maldivian Rufiyaa on the basis of loans being repaid in US dollars,” read the report.

“These loans were given by keeping as security post dated cheques dated up to three months in advance. However most of these cheques according to the STO audit report were replaced by other post dated cheques just before they fell due and continued to be rolled over in this manner.”

Whilst the report did note that the cheques worth MVR112,731,250  were eventually repaid, the cost to the STO in lost interest was estimated by Grant Thornton to have been up to US$1 million.


‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam elected interim leader of Maldives Development Alliance

Independent MP for Dhaalu Meedhoo, Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam, was elected interim leader of the newly-formed Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) at an inaugural convention held in Male’ last night.

According to Shiyam’s Sun Online, 362 members attended the meeting at Traders Hotel, which was authorised to proceed by the Elections Commission (EC) after it had verified the attendance registry.

Under the regulations governing political parties, at least 300 members are required to attend an inaugural convention of a newly-formed political parties, while 3,000 signatures are needed to form the party.

The tourism magnate was elected interim leader with 335 votes out of 362 ballots cast.

Independent MP for Dhaalu Kudahuvadhoo Ahmed Amir was elected as one of three interim deputy leaders, along with Ali Mauroof and Aishath Rafiyya.

In addition to the senior officials, 18 members were elected to the party’s interim council.

While orange was approved as the official colour of the party, members also passed the party’s logo, seal, manifesto and charter.

MDA becomes the 16th political party to be registered in the Maldives since 2005.


President Waheed pledges infrastructure projects for islands of Dhaalu Atoll

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has pledged a number of infrastructure projects next year for several islands during a recent tour of Dhaalu atoll.

The former vice president was accompanied during the trip by Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizz and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb as well as Independent MP for Dhaal Meedhoo Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam and Independent MP for Dhaal Kudahuvadhoo Ahmed Amir.

Addressing the people of Meedhoo on Saturday, Waheed pledged a land reclamation project next year to ease congestion, in addition to promising to include funds in the 2013 budget for a football stadium in the island.

Speaking at the rally in Meedhoo, MP Shiyam offered assurances to his constituents that the land reclamation project would commence next year.

Waheed’s tour of Dhaal atoll was reported extensively by the resort magnate’s radio station and affiliated website Sun Online. While the pledges were reported by the online news outlet owned by the resort owner MP, the press briefings on the President’s Office website made no mention of the promised infrastructure projects.

In his visit to the island of Badidhoo in Dhaal atoll, Waheed pledged to include funds in next year’s budget to construct a harbour in the island.

Assuring the people of Badidhoo that the project would commence next year, Waheed also promised that the government would restart a stalled project to construct additional classrooms in the island’s school “in the near future.”

Speaking to the people of Maa’ebudhoo on Sunday, Waheed meanwhile pledged to include funds in next year’s budget for a harbour project for the island.

Waheed also pledged a project to establish a sewerage system in the island but did not specify a date for commencement.

In his visit to Kudahuvadhoo on the same day – which was marked by an anti-government demonstration and the arrest of six protesters – Waheed pledged a land reclamation project for the island “early next year” ahead of the construction of an airport.

Waheed noted that a project for construction of a seawall was ongoing in Kudahuvadhoo and said that the government planned to issue soft loans for construction of houses, arguing that such a policy would be better than the construction of flats or housing units by the government.

“Several youth have obtained land tenures. But they are not able to build houses for long periods of time. The solution to this is not sudden construction of a bunch of flats. That’s not the solution. The real solution is to find ways for people to live, and to help them build houses,” he was quoted as saying.

In his last stop on the tour of Dhaalu atoll, Waheed told the people of Hulhudheli yesterday (Monday, October 29) that he would try to put together a project to establish a sewerage system in the island next year.

He added that the government’s utility company, Fenaka Corporation, would be instructed to upgrade the engine in the island’s powerhouse.

President Waheed and First Lady Madam Ilham Hussain arrived in Male’ in the late afternoon yesterday after concluding his trip.

Upon his return, the President tweeted with a picture of a procession welcoming him to an island: “Just returned from a visit to Dhaal Atoll and Faaf Nilandhoo having spent Eid Al Adh’aa with the people.”

While the President pledged infrastructure projects and told the people of Meedhoo that the economy was “doing fine” and that there was no cause to “worry about the economy being in a slump,” Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told Sun Online that the government was unprepared to meet its recurrent expenditure – including salaries – for the final three months of 2012 without a US$25 million loan promised by the Indian government.

Moreover, addressing the people of Nilandhoo in Faafu atoll – the first stop of the tour – Waheed reportedly said that borrowing large sums of money from foreign parties in order to run the government would not be the policy of his government.

According to Sun Online, “the President said that that his policy is to meet the expenditure of the government with government income. He also said that his priorities are decided on the basis of what is necessary for the country.”

“We are trying to secure sources of income for the nation. I will not try to run the government by securing huge loans from foreign parties. We are trying to spend from what we earn,” Waheed was quoted as saying.