Six senior government officials abused power in drug kingpin’s temporary release, says ACC

The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has recommended charges be filed against six senior government officials for the temporary release of convicted drug kingpin Ibrahim Shafaz Abdul Razzak in February.

Former Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Hanim personally paid a visit to a doctor at their home to obtain a signature claiming Shafaz required urgent medical care abroad.

However, the ACC found no evidence to suggest Shafaz required urgent treatment or care unavailable in the Maldives. Shafaz had not consulted a doctor at all in the week before his release.

Hanim, who is now the deputy minister of environment, also oversaw the illegal preparation of Shafaz’s travel documents and allowed him to leave the country without obtaining approval from the Maldives Correctional Service’s (MCS) medical board.

The investigations also revealed former Commissioner of Prisons Moosa Azim lobbied the medical board to approve Shafaz’s release despite knowing his paperwork was incomplete.

In addition to Hanim and Azim, the ACC has recommended corruption charges be filed against two members of the medical board, a technical officer at Indhira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) and a staff of the MCS.

Shafaz was caught in Sri Lanka in May in a joint operation by the Maldivian and Sri Lankan security forces when he failed to return to the Maldives in the three-month period he had been given.

The Criminal Court had in November 2013 sentenced the 30-year-old to 18 years in prison and had levied a fine of MVR75,000 (US$4,860) for drug trafficking.

Deputy Minister’s abuse of power

According to the MCS’s regulations, an inmate can only be allowed abroad for medical treatment if two doctors attest that the inmate requires urgent care that is not available in the Maldives.

The MCS’ medical board must then review the doctors’ referrals before endorsing the release.

According to the ACC, Chief Superintendent of Malé Prisons Mohamed Thaufeeg, on Hanim’s request, illegally entered the medical section and printed the forms required for Shafaz’s release.

Thaufeeq had entered the medical section’s premises in the absence of the officer in charge.

Hanim and Thaufeeq then paid a personal visit to a doctor at their home on February 2 to obtain signatures. Local media have identified the doctor to be Indian national Dr Ganga Raju.

The forms require signatures of two doctors, but a senior technical officer at IGMH, Abdulla Rafiu, filled in the second slot.

Hanim sent a letter to the Department of Immigration ordering Shafaz’s travel documents be prepared although such letters must in fact be sent by the individual who heads the Home Ministry’s Implementation Section.

The letter was prepared and dispatched before the medical board and the Commissioner of Prison’s approved Shafaz’s release.

When the head of the Implementation Section refused to allow Shafaz to leave Maafushi Jail on February 5, Hanim himself authorized the release.

According to the ACC, Hanim attempted to complete the paperwork only after Shafaz left the country.

Medical board’s role

The medical board met on February 4 to review Shafaz’s request for temporary release.

The board noticed only one doctor had signed his forms and that the forms did not provide details on Shafaz’s medical conditions or the type of treatment he was to receive abroad.

However, Azim assured the board that the proper paperwork would be submitted at the next meeting. Board members, Maldives Police Services Chief Inspector of Police Dr Mohamed Fazneen Latheef and Home Ministry’s Deputy Director General Ishaq Ahmed, supported the inmate’s release.

Fazneen admitted to the ACC that the medical board had not released any inmate without complete paperwork in the past, and said he believed he had failed to uphold the board’s stringent standards in supporting Shafaz’s leaving the country.

Azim only signed the medical board’s final approval after Shafaz had left.

Shafaz was arrested on June 24, 2011, with 896 grams of heroin from a rented apartment in a building owned by ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives MP Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem.

Former head of the Drug Enforcement Department, Superintendent Mohamed Jinah, told the press at the time that police had raided Henveiru Fashan based on intelligence information gathered in the two-year long ‘Operation Challenge’.

Jinah labeled Shafaz a high-profile drug dealer suspected of smuggling and supplying drugs since 2006.

He claimed that the network had smuggled drugs worth MVR1.3 million (US$84,306) to the Maldives between February and April 2011.

Related to this story

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Demands for release of Maafushi prisoners reportedly behind Flyme bomb threat

Demands for the release of unnamed Maafushi prisoners is reported to have been behind the Flyme passenger flight bomb threat last night.

A Flyme official speaking to Haveeru said that the bomb threat came via a note placed on a seat which was then handed to the pilot by one of the crew members on the flight.

The official also stated that the note threatened to blow up the flight and demanded the release of unspecified inmates from Maafushi jail.

On receiving the threat, the pilot immediately turned around and headed back to Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. All arrivals to Malé were diverted and departures, including a Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines flight, were delayed.

The airport runway was opened after a two and a half hour closure while the flight was emptied under the supervision of Maldives National Defense Force who searched for explosive devices.

A press statement from Flyme today stated that there were ten foreigners and one Maldivian on the flight in addition to three crew members.

However, a Flyme media official speaking to Minivan News refused to comment on the details of the threat.

Exactly one year ago, on November 23 2013, a Flyme flight departing to Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Kaadehdhoo was delayed after a group threatened to hijack the plane.

Flyme is operated by Villa Air, a subsidiary of Villa Group. Tourism tycoon, Jumhooree Party Leader and MP Gasim Ibrahim is the owner of Villa Group.

Last week a Flyme flight was forced to return to Malé en route to Kadadehdhoo after a 59-year-old woman died during shortly after takeoff.

Related to this story

Flyme flight makes emergency landing after bomb threat


Open prisons and electronic tagging part of plans to overhaul jail

Inmates at Maafushi Island Prison are to be categorised into four groups according to security risk, with the least dangerous criminals to be tagged and released on work and study programmes.

“This is a huge change to the prison system,” Naseer told Haveeru adding that the reforms will reduce state expenditure on the rehabilitation system.

Older inmates or inmates nearing the end of the sentence will be housed in an open jail on a separate island, Home Minister Umar Naseer told local news agency Haveeru today.

Inmates in category two will be allowed to work on the industrial Thilafushi Island, and the most dangerous criminals or category one criminals will continue to serve their sentences behind bars in Maafushi prison.

“This will be advantageous to the state budget. Secondly, it will allow criminals to undergo rehabilitation and integrate back into society. With this, when inmates are released from jail, they will have undergone one of the programs,” the Home Minister told Haveeru.

The inmates who are to be released on the work and study programme will have an electronic tag fixed to their legs. In addition to undergoing a security screening, they will also have to be nearing the end of their sentence.

“They will have to do one or the other [work or study]. If they are working, we have to know where they are going. We also have to know the exact route they are taking. Through the tag, we can track which streets they are walking on,” he said.

The home minister said the tags have been tested during his trip to Singapore earlier this week. An expert team is to visit the Maldives to demonstrate how the tags work to government offices, he said.

The open jail is to be established on an uninhabited island. The government will provide modest shelter, run a mosque, and establish an administrative office and a security post. The inmates will cook for themselves and be self- sufficient, but will not be allowed to leave the island, Naseer said.

“These are people who pose no harm to society. And elderly inmates who are weak,” he said.

Plans are underway to designate an island for the open jail. The Home Ministry is currently working on a policy paper on the matter to be submitted to the social council at the President’s Office.

Category two criminals will be provided employment with the Road Development Corporation and will be put to work and housed on Thilafushi.

The Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) and the corporation have already signed an agreement to transfer jobs from expatriate workers to inmates.

“The Road Development Corporation’s labour quarters will be changed into prison labour quarters. That means there will be a fence around the quarters,” he said.

Inmates will be released during the day for work and brought back to the labor quarters at night. The renovation is expected to cost MVR6 million (US$ 389,105) and will be funded through the state budget.

Approximately 50 inmates are already employed on Thilafushi, he said.

The reforms will reduce the prison population from 1000 inmates to 300 or 400 inmates, the home minister said.

Naseer has overseen a series of radical changes including a decision to implement the death penalty.

New regulations formulated in April have ended a sixty-year moratorium on the practice. The Maldives Correctional Services is now preparing facilities to implement the death sentence through legal injection.


Hospitalised Maafushi inmate Ibrahim Azar dies from injuries

Former inmate of Maafushi prison, Ibrahim Azar, who suffered severe injuries during a fight in his cell has died while receiving treatment.

Local media has reported that Azar died at Ananthapuri Hospital in India at 12:15 p.m. local time, quoting members of the deceased family.

The injuries were sustained on February 24 during after being attacked by his two cell mates. According to a report on the incident at the prison shared by the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS), Azar had requested to be transferred from his cell more than an hour before the assault.

Azar – of Maafannu Dhodhilge – was brought to Malé after the incident with serious head injuries, although police were said to have assured his mother at the time that his injuries were not serious. He was serving a five year drug abuse sentence.

A source familiar with the matter has previously told Minivan News that Azar’s cell mates attacked him using a razor blade. He received multiple wounds to his body, and his head was allegedly banged against the cell wall or the metal fence.

However, officials from the MCS had denied that any “sharp objects” were used in the assault when asked by MPs at a Majlis oversight committee meeting.

Following the incident, Azar was taken to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, who recommended he be flown to an international hospital for specialist treatment.

Local media CNM has reported that Azar will be buried this afternoon after Asru prayers.

The correctional services said that they were unaware of the reports of Azar’s death at the time of publishing.

Azar made request to move cells before the fight

According to the one-page MCS report, on February 24, Prison Corporal Mohamed Mujthaba, the ranking duty officer at the time of the incident, was informed by guards of unrest in cell number 12 of unit three, wing one, at about 5:25pm.

Mujthaba questioned the prisoners and was asked by two of the three inmates in cell 12 – Ali Ashwan of Ma. Oasis Villa and Azar – to be transferred to a different cell.

“However, when [the inmates] were asked to explain the reason for wanting to change cells, they refused to do so until they were taken out of the cell,” the report revealed.

At about 6:00pm, the report stated, instructions were given to transfer the inmates, but the third inmate in cell 12 – Ahmed Liushan, also from Ma. Oasis Villa – obstructed prison guards who attempted to take the other inmates out of the cell.

At about 6:50pm, Mujthaba and Emergency Support Group officers made their way to the cell upon hearing a commotion from the unit – finding the “severely beaten” Azar inside.

The source familiar with the matter had told Minivan News that Azar was attacked by his cell mates after calling prison officers when a fight broke out between two of his cell mates on February 24.

“Azar was kept in A-B/Unit-3 of Maafushi Prison with two other inmates, and that day the two inmates had an issue and started fighting,’’ the source said.

“Azar called the prison officers and the prison officers talked to the two that were fighting and resolved the issue – but as soon as the prison officer left they started fighting again.’’

“It repeated three times, and after the fourth time prison officers were called Azar was attacked by his two cell mates,’’ the source said.


Police seize mobile phones and drugs in Maafushi prison

The Maldives Police Services have seized illegal narcotics and mobile phones in Maafushi Prison on Sunday.

A Police and Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) joint operation uncovered 50 rubber packers, one bullet size packet, one can and 22 cellophane packets containing illegal drugs. Five additional packets with traces of illegal drugs were also found.

Police discovered 15 mobile phones, 17 mobile phone batteries, 26 SIM cards, three mobile phone chargers, one SD memory card and one knife during the raid.

In a statement on Sunday, the police said that the operation was conducted after police received reports that inmates in Maafushi prison had been calling various people, asking them to recharge their phones with large amounts of cash.

Police said that inmates have also phoned people outside jail and told them that they will conduct useful projects in the Maldives and beneficial work and asked for money in return.

Inmates had also called shops pretending to be fishermen calling from a fishing boat or staff working on a safari boat, and have asked the shops to put credit in their mobile phones promising to pay the shop back at a later date, the police said.

The police advised people not to participate in money transactions proposed by strangers and not to recharge mobile phone accounts of unknown individuals.

Police said they clarified these reports first through police intelligence department before raiding the cells.

When asked how inmates were able to smuggle illegal substances into prison, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Hanim said he had not yet received details on the operation.

The police said they have previously issued statements to increase awareness among the public regarding such crimes, and said it was regrettable that not enough cooperation is being received from the people to stop these types of crimes.

In March 2010, the then-State Minister for Home Affairs Ahmed Adil said that jail officers were being investigated on suspicion of helping inmates bring mobile phones and drugs into cells in Male’ prison.

In May 2011, the then-Head of Department and Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) Mohamed Rasheed  confirmed that a police officer was being questioned for allegedly attempting to smuggle charged phone batteries to inmates at Maafushi prison.


Fifty inmates selected to begin work on Thilafushi road construction in a week

Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Mohamed Hanim has stated that fifty of the “best disciplined” inmates have now been chosen to take part in the ministry’s government’s labour programme.

The first project for which the inmates have been selected is the construction of roads in industrial island Thilafushi.

The government has still not revealed the amount of pay inmates will be entitled to after completing the work, although Hanim echoed Home Minister Umar Naseer’s statements that half of each inmate’s pay will be taken for the development of the prison system, while the other half can be saved or sent to the inmates’ families.

Hanim revealed that prison guards will be overseeing the work of the prisoners, as well as accompanying them on the transfer trips to and from Thilafushi to Maafushi, where the prison is located.

“We have selected the best of the inmates for this work. This is a very special initiative taken by the Home Ministry to contribute to finding a solution to many problems faced by the nation, including the need to employ foreign labourers,” Hanim is quoted as saying to local media.

“When we make inmates do work that would otherwise be done by immigrants, it also has huge benefits to our economy. Additionally, this gives the opportunity for inmates to financially assist those who have to take care of them,” he said.

Minivan News was unable to contact Deputy Minister Mohamed Hanim for comments.

Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer initially announced the project in late December 2013.

“There is no country in the world where inmates are not made to work. This administration’s aim is to make inmates in our jails work in various government projects. To bring them out of their current situation,” Naseer had said then, at an event announcing the government’s policies on youth development.

While the labour program is voluntary, detainees will be selected based on their disciplinary records during the time in detention and their suitability for the work to be conducted.

Naseer predicted that by the end of 2014, 400 out of 730 inmates will be working on some project, thereby preparing them for reintegration into society.

In order to prepare detainees for such work, the ministry further plans to introduce vocational training programs in Maafushi Island prison in the near future. The program will desensitise them to work environments and hone a number of skills, he said.

Umar Naseer was not responding to calls at the time of press.


DPRS replaced with Maldives Correctional Service

President Abdulla Yameen has established the Maldives Correctional Service on December 31, 2013, which replaces the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services.

The President’s Office announced that, together with the establishment of the Correctional Service under the Maldives Prisons and Parole Act, the DPRS’s Second Chance Programme will also be discontinued effective from Tuesday.


Prison to be built on Kaashidhoo

The Ministry of Home Affairs has announced a deal with Maldivian construction company Aima to build a prison in Kaashidhoo, in Kaafu Atoll.

The open prison, designed to house 700 inmates, will cost MVR143 million (US$9.2 million) and should be completed within 18 months, Sun Online has reported.

“This project in Kaashidhoo is based on ‘open jail’ concept. We will use 90 percent of the land area for agriculture. Most prisoners will be engaged in this work, and their work will also benefit their families,” Minister of State for Home Affairs Mohamed Fayaz told the media today.

During a ceremony at the Home Affairs Ministry today, Fayaz is reported to have said that prisoners incarcerated in Kaashidhoo should be able to earn enough whilst in prison to prevent re-offending upon their release.

He added that the construction would add much-needed capacity to the Maldives prison network, noting that currently not all sentences can be carried out due to lack of space. Fayaz also took aim at the previous government, arguing that the last administration had released many convicts too early.


Man sentenced to one year in jail for carrying a knife “without a valid reason”

A man has been sentenced to one year in prison for carrying a knife on the street, reports local media.

Fahud Moahmed was found guilty of “carrying a sharp object in a public place without valid reason”, following witness testimony that he was seen with the knife on a thoroughfare in Male’.

Moahmed could not provide the court with a reason why he was carrying the knife.