Aitken Spence acquires two new resort properties

Aitken Spence Hotels has acquired two new properties in the Maldives for resort development, making the Sri Lankan company the largest foreign resort operator in the country.

According to TTG Asia, Aitken Spence revealed yesterday that it has leased the island of Raafushi in Noonu atoll for US$5 million for the development of a four-star resort.

The company also plans to invest US$50 million to develop a five-star resort with 163 rooms on the island of Aarah in Raa atoll.

The hospitality group also operates resorts in Meedhupparu, Hudhuranfushi, Rannalhi and Vadoo in the Maldives under its Adaaran brand.

Maldives Capital Market Development Authority CEO Ahmed Naseer told Sri Lankan newspaper the Daily Mirror: “We have potential future developments for over 60 islands with about a US$2 billion financing requirement and an airport development with another US $400 million financing requirement.”


Police bust Maldivian drug network in Sri Lanka

Police have busted an international drug network operated by a group of Maldivians in Sri Lanka following a two-year long operation.

Police superintendent Ahmed Shifan said three Maldivians were arrested with 165 grams of heroin and a large amount of cash in a joint operation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Department (DED) and the Sri Lankan Narcotics Bureau.

Shifan, head of the DED, said the three were suspected of carrying out large-scale drug trafficking through several countries, including Pakistan, Thailand, China, and India.

The first suspect arrested in the case – a 25-year-old – had travelled to these countries with fake passports numerous times since 2012, Shifan said.

Shifan also said that a Maldivian woman was recently arrested in Sri Lanka with 100 grams of cannabis.

However, the woman has since been released because cannabis is considered a soft drug in Sri Lanka.


SAHR expresses concern with arrest of former President Nasheed

South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional network of human rights activists and institutions, has expressed “shock and concern” over the arrest and mistreatment by police of former President Mohamed Nasheed this week.

In a statement issued yesterday (February 25), SAHR described police manhandling and dragging the opposition leader into court as “degrading and a ruthless misuse of police powers.”

“The former President has been arrested under counter terrorism laws on charges of anti-state activities for ordering the arrest of a senior judge Abdullah Mohamed in 2012 which led to street riots in the Maldives. Linking the ordering of the arrest of a senior judge with terrorism and anti state activities smacks of political vendetta and a blatant misuse of counter terrorism laws,” reads the statement.

The organisation called on the Maldivian government to “ensure that political considerations does not vitiate the trial and the former President is tried with adherence to fair trial standards guaranteed under international human rights standards.”

The Sri Lankan government meanwhile joined a growing international chorus of concern yesterday with a statement expressing concern about the recent developments in the Maldives.

“It is hoped that all stakeholders in Maldives will resolve their differences in a peaceful manner, within the legal provisions in Maldives,” reads the brief statement by the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry.

On Tuesday (February 24), Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon hit back at statements issued by the Commonwealth, Canada, UN, and the EU, expressing disappointment over “bias” and factual inaccuracies.

“The Government of President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom will not take instructions from a foreign government on any issue in governing the country,” she said.

Meanwhile, Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard also voiced concern over Nasheed’s arrest and urged the government to “ensure Nasheed his rights, uphold judicial principles and secure a just and transparent trial.”

Lidegaard said he had asked the EU nations to discuss the situation in the Maldives.


Government and opposition send messages to mark Sri Lankan independence

Both the government and opposition have extended felicitations to the people of Sri Lanka on the occasion of the country’s 67th Independence Day.

President Abulla Yameen sent messages to the newly elected President Maithripala Sirisena, and his Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, extending good wishes from the people of the Maldives.

Meanwhile, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party released a statement noting that Maldivians have always followed development in Sri Lanka, saying that “progresses in foreign and political affairs [in Maldives] have always reflected developments in Sri Lanka.”

“The Maldivian Democratic Party joins our cousins in Sri Lanka in reflection that this Independence Day holds much significance, as it reflects a history of great sacrifices made by many Sri Lankans in the attainment of its freedom,” said party Spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

President Sirisena inflicted a surprising defeat on the ten-year incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa in last month’s presidential polls.

Sri Lanka gained independence from British rule on February 4, 1948. The Maldives will itself celebrate 50 years since it gained total independence from the British Empire on July 26 this year.


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

Convicted drug kingpin Shafa caught in Colombo

Doctor’s passport held as drug kingpin’s medical release investigated

Police arrest suspected drug kingpin after months of investigations


Government to build futsal pitch for expats in Lanka

The Ministry of Youth and Sports has announced it will build a futsal pitch for the use of Maldivian expatriates in Sri Lanka, say media reports.

Additionally, Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb is reported to have personally donated a gym for the exclusive use of Maldivians in Sri Lanka, thought to number just under 10,000.

The MVR1 million (US$65,000) futsal pitch is expected to be finished in two months, while the gym was opened yesterday by Ambassador-at-Large Abdulla Hameed alongside officials from Maldives High Commission in Colombo.

President Abdulla Yameen has previously announced his intention to renovate Sosun Villa – formerly the site of the high commission – to provide cultural and educational activities for Maldivians, including Dhivehi language, Islam, and Quran classes.

A youth centre was also opened at Sosun Villa in June for young Maldivians living in Sri Lanka.

Source: Haveeru


Drug kingpin Shafaz appeals conviction at High Court

Convicted drug trafficker Ibrahim Shafaz Abdul Razzak has appealed his drug trafficking charges at the High Court, reports local media.

At the first hearing yesterday, Shafaz’s lawyer argued that the trial at the Criminal Court was conducted in a prejudiced and unfair manner.

The defence attorney, Aminath Shezleen, noted that the verdict did not specify the type of drugs Shafaz was accused of trafficking with reference to the appendix of the Drugs Act.

While the conviction was based on a phone call recording, Shezleen said the audio was submitted as evidence without a chain of custody report from police as required by regulations.

The state attorney, however, defended the validity of the report and noted that both sides were allowed to question experts at the trial concerning the analysis report of the phone recording, adding that Shafaz had not denied that it was his voice in the incriminating audio.

Concluding the hearing, the three-judge panel asked for submission of both the chain of custody report and the recording of the phone conversation.

The judges announced that a second hearing would be held after considering the evidence.

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

In February, Shafaz was temporarily released for three months to seek medical treatment said to be unavailable in the Maldives.

However, following media reports suggesting the Maldives Correctional Services (MCS) violated procedures in authorising his release, Shafaz was caught in Colombo in May and brought back to the Maldives to serve his sentence.

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.


Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse arrives in the Maldives

President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapakse and First Lady Shiranthi Rajapakse arrived in the Maldives on an official visit this afternoon.

President of the Maldives Abdulla Yameen greeted the Rajapakses on arrival at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

A bugle call was sounded on Rajapakse’s arrival in Malé and a 21 gun salute was offered. The Maldives National Defense Forces (MNDF) offered a guard of honor on his arrival.

According to the Maldives President’s Office, Yameen and Rajapakse held official talks on regional and international issues of mutual concern.

The two countries signed three agreements on health cooperation, economic development and search and rescue operations.


Sri Lanka’s President Rajapakse to visit the Maldives on Wednesday

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse will arrive in the Maldives on an official state visit on Wednesday.

President Rajapakse will be accompanied by his wife, cabinet ministers and parliament members.

According to the Maldives President’s Office, President Abdulla Yameen will hold official talks and an official state dinner in Rajapakse’s honor.

Rajapakse’s visit marks the first visit by a head of state to the Maldives since Yameen assumed the presidency.