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.”