Anti-smuggling MoU signed between police

The Maldives National Defence Force has today signed an MoU with the police and customs services to tackle the smuggling of illegal items via large containers.

The MoU will establish a special task force, reported local media, with Commissioner General Zuhoor noting that agreement was signed in collaboration with the United Nation’s office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and World Customs Organisation (WCO).

A statement from police reported Zuhoor as saying that the agreement would assist in identifying and confiscating drugs, weapons, and other material which might lead to terrorism, coming in through containers.

The Maldives’ main port in Malé handles over 50,000 containers every year.


Court postpones delivering verdict in Siyam alcohol possession trial

The Criminal Court has postponed a hearing scheduled today to deliver a verdict in MP Ahmed ‘Sun’ Siyam Mohamed’s alcohol smuggling and possession trial, reports local media.

At the last hearing in July, Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed had said the verdict would be delivered at the next trial date. The court has confirmed that a hearing scheduled for today has been cancelled, but did not provide an explanation.

The chief judge had taken over Siyam’s case in May after the MP for Dhaalu Meedhoo requested a change of judge.

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

The government-aligned Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) leader was charged with smuggling and possession of alcohol in November after a liquor bottle was found in his luggage in March 2012.

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

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.

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.


New passport verification system set up at immigration counters

A new e-passport verification system donated by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has been set up at immigration counters at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) and the foreign labour section at the immigration department, reports local media.

Speaking at a function at Hulhulé Island Hotel yesterday, IOM Programme Manager Alia Hijree explained that the system could be used if an immigration officer feels suspicious about a passport or visa, adding that the process would only take 19 seconds.

“In this short time we verify the details about a suspicious person, to match those details stored on the electronic chip of the e-passport. The system will find how much the details match. In addition to this, the system will be able to check the type of ink used in the passport along with several other details,” she was quoted as saying by Haveeru.

Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim meanwhile said the Maldives was targeted by smugglers while the threat of terrorism was a major concern in the region.

“Today criminals are more organized, technologically more capable, and increasingly operate across the borders. The threat of terrorism is a major concern in this region,” he was quoted as saying by Sun Online.

Counter-terrorism measures are being implemented to strengthen border control, he added.

“To strengthen our border security and minimise the threat of terrorism and trans-national crime, we are working hard to implement robust border security measures and also counter terrorism measures as well.”


Case of Russian smuggling cocaine halted due to language barriers

The case of Prutova Angelina, a young Russian charged with smuggling 2kg of cocaine into the Maldives has been halted due to language barriers.

Angelina – a 25-year-old Russian national – was arrested on January 27 of this year, when she arrived in the Maldives from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Judge Abdullah Nasheed said that the next hearing will be held only after finding a translator who spoke Russian, according t Haveeru.

According to reports, during the first hearing of her case, with the aid of a translator, the state read aloud all of the charges against her at court. Angelina then demanded for a translator who knows Russian.

“I know English only a little bit”, Angelina replied when the judge questioned her about her English, reported Haveeru.

Angelina demanded for a translator who knew Russian for a second time when the charge sheet was read out to her.

She also said that she wished to arrange a lawyer for herself.

According to reports, Angelina failed to answer when she was asked how long it would take to arrange a lawyer, and the judge then instructed her to arrange a lawyer for the second hearing of her case.

Despite being sent to the Prosecutor General’s Office in April, the case had already been delayed due to a dispute between the Criminal Court and the PG’s office over the provision of a translator.

The Law on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances stipulates that a foreign national charged with importing over 1 gram of narcotics will be sentenced to life imprisonment. There is also a possibility of received a minimum fine of MVR10,000 (US$651).


Case of 25-year-old Russian woman smuggling cocaine sent to Prosecutor General

The case of the Russian woman – arrested after attempting to smuggle 2.5kgs of cocaine into the Maldives – has been sent to the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office.

Purtova Angelina – a 25-year-old Russian national – was arrested on January 27 this year when she arrived in the Maldives from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameem has confirmed with Minivan News that police have finished their investigation, and that the case was forwarded to the PG last Thursday (April 3). Shameem estimated that the court hearing will take place within the next week.

“We don’t know yet what the decision will be, we will have to wait until the court hearing next week.” Shameem told Minivan.

Purtova, a makeup artist, allegedly has a history of distributing cocaine to a number of countries and has associations with a large drug trafficking network in Europe, according to Haveeru.

According to the reports, Angelina had been reported missing by her family when she arrived in the Maldives. Family members and friends had used social media networks to try and find her.

On January 26 2014, the Criminal Court ruled that Philippines national Jenerosa Pancho Mapula was guilty of smuggling 3 kgs of cocaine into the Maldives, and fining her MVR100,000 (USD 6510) and sentencing her to life imprisonment.

The Criminal Court ruling stated that, on April 24, 2013, Jenerosa arrived in the Maldives at about 8:50am and that police searched her luggage after receiving intelligence reports that she was carrying illegal narcotics.

Jenerosa denied the charges, the court said, though according to witnesses produced in court the drugs were found inside her luggage. Jenerosa was ordered to pay the fine within one month.

The Law on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances stipulates that a foreign national charged with importing over 1 gram of narcotics will be sentenced to life imprisonment. There is also a possibility of received a minimum fine of MVR10,000 (US$651).


Man sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for importing 0.8 grams of Xanax

A Maldivian man has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and a MVR 50,000 (US$3,217) fine for importing less than one gram of a widely prescribed anti-anxiety drug.

Shafeeq Ibrahim of Seeni Hithadhoo, Soama was sentenced by the Criminal Court after confessing to importing drugs into the Maldives after arriving in Male on flight on October 7, 2012, local media reported.

A test of the substance that was carried into the country in two packets revealed it to contain 0.8314 grams of the commonly prescribed anti-anxiety drug Alprazolam, also known as Xanax.

Director Department of Judicial Administration Ahmed Maajid told Minivan News on Monday (March 11) that Shafeeq had not been caught with any substance other than Alprazolam.

“It is a pharmaceutical drug, but it is included in Schedule 2 of the Narcotics Act, and it is, by virtue of the act, an offence to import it [Alprazolam] unless it is by a licensed pharmacy,” Maajid said.

Despite the Xanax being the most popular psychiatric drug in the United States – according to American publication Forbes – Australian media reported the pharmaceutical drug to be as “addictive as heroin and harder to stop using”.

Criminal Court has ordered Shafeeq to pay the MVR 50,000 within a period of one month, according to local media.

Death penalty for illegal drug smuggling: NDA

In February, National Drug Agency (NDA) Chairperson Lubna Zahir called for the death penalty for those found to be importing illegal narcotics into the Maldives.

Speaking on state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM), Lubna claimed that drug importation needed to be in the same category as murder.

“We can only prevent drugs from coming into the Maldives by implementing the death penalty against them. Importing drugs is not a less serious crime.

”One solution to this is to implement the death penalty against those who bring in drugs and commit murder,” Lubna said.

Lubna requested parliament include the death penalty as the most severe punishment for drug smugglers when passing relevant laws.


Three suspected of smuggling drugs into country arrested

Police have arrested three people accused of bringing large amounts of drugs into the Maldives, local media reports.

The Drug Enforcement Department arrested three individuals aged 26, 27 and 29 on Wednesday, after police were informed of a person bringing drugs into the country via the airport.

Local media reported that the 26-year-old was arrested first as he got off the ferry from Hulhule’ to Male’, while the 27 and 29-year-old were arrested under suspicion of receiving and trading the drugs.

21 bullets containing a substance suspected to be drugs were seized by police, after they were carried internally by the 26-year-old.

Meanwhile, local media reported that customs handed over a man to police on February 16 who was suspected of carrying drugs internally.

Police later discovered the man had been carrying 99 bullets of a substance suspected to be drugs.


Customs cage budgie smuggler

A man who tried to smuggle almost 40 live birds and more than 100 eggs into the Maldives has had his cargo seized by customs.

Customs discovered the birds after searching the Maldivian national’s luggage at Male’ International Airport, after he arrived from Bangkok on 20 December. In total there were 109 eggs and 39 birds, nine of them dead, customs officers said.

The birds are now in possession of the Agricultural Ministry’s plant and quarantine unit, which confirmed that most of the birds were canaries and budgerigars.

The birds and eggs were being readied for transportation to Thilafushi to be euthanised, the unit said.

Ali Rilwaan, head of environmental NGO Bluepeace, said the procedure for a situation like this was to determine the birds’ species and ascertain if they were wild.

“Normally these kind of birds are kept as pets, and if there are no health risks I see no reason for the birds to be killed this way,” Rilwaan said.

“For generations, Maldivians have kept birds as pets, and since the introduction of species such canaries and budgies as pets over the last ten years there has been less exploitation of local species,” Rilwaan continued.

Since the spread of bird flu the importing of pet species has been banned, however chicks and ducklings are still brought into the country in large numbers.

According to the plant and quarantine unit, there are no plans to find new homes for the birds and they will be destroyed.