The Criminal Court has denied ordering the deportation of two Pakistani nationals arrested in connection with the smuggling of 24kg of heroin in March.
Citing police, local media reported this week that the court had ordered the deportation of the pair.
The Criminal Court however refuted the claims in a press statement released yesterday (July 2), noting that ordering the deportation of foreign nationals was outside the court’s jurisdiction.
Media reports to the contrary were “based on false information,” the court said.
The statement explained that a court order extending the remand detention of the Pakistani suspects to 15 days had instructed the police to transfer the pair to the the custody of the Department of Immigration.
Police had stated at the remand hearing that the Prosecutor General’s Office had decided to deport the suspects, the statement noted.
The media reports referred to by the Criminal Court were based on a news item published on the police website on Tuesday (July 1).
Out of 18 suspects arrested in the case, police explained that 15 were held in pre-trial detention, including three Bangladeshis, four Maldivians, and eight Pakistanis.
Six of the Pakistani nationals had since been released while the Criminal Court ordered the release of two Bangladeshis on June 24.
On the same day, one of the Maldivian suspects was transferred to house arrest due to poor health. The suspect had earlier suffered burns to 45 percent of his body in a fire accident, police noted.
“The detention period of a Maldivian involved in the case was extended to seven days today [Tuesday]. Additionally, the detention period of three Maldivians and a Bangladeshi will be up on July 4,” the police news item read.
“The court has asked for the two Pakistanis involved in the case to be deported.”
Minivan News was awaiting a response from the police media official at the time of press. The official told newspaper Haveeru yesterday that police were looking into the matter.
Four Maldivians, three Bangladeshis, and 11 Pakistanis were taken into custody on March 10 with 24kg of heroin, which police said was “the largest amount of drugs seized in a police operation conducted in the Maldives so far.”
The drugs were transported in a vessel named ‘Hormooz’ registered in Iran, Superintendent Mohamed Rasheed, head of the Drug Enforcement Department (DED), revealed at a press briefing on March 12.
The 11 Pakistani nationals were the crew and captain of the Iranian boat. Local media reported in April that the Iranian vessel was allowed to leave the country while six crew members were also released.
The drugs were allegedly collected by the four Maldivians and three Bangladeshis 30 nautical miles off the coast of Alif Alif Mathiveri, Rasheed had explained, after which it was concealed under fibre boards in a dinghy.
Two of the suspects were seized by police after arriving on the dinghy in Hulhumale’ while their dhoni waited in the harbour.
The Iranian vessel was meanwhile captured at sea with coastguard assistance between Alif Alif and Baa atolls, Rasheed said.
Asked by reporters whether a police sergeant and a Maldivian man – Abdulla Shaffath – arrested in connection with the Artur brothers’ case last year were among the 18 suspects, Rasheed had said he could not disclose details as it could hamper the investigation.
Rasheed, however, confirmed that a police officer had been arrested in connection with the drug haul while two of the Maldivian suspects had prior records for drug-related offences.
While the street value of the drugs was estimated to be MVR36 million (US$2.2 million), Superintendent Rasheed noted that the drugs would likely be laced with “other powders” to increase its volume “two or threefold” before being sold.
The additional volume could potentially raise its street value to almost MVR100 million (US$6.5 million), he said.