Last of the Pakistani suspects in the 24 kg heroin bust deported

The Maldives Police Services have deported two Pakistanis detained in connection to a 24 kg heroin drug bust citing insufficient evidence.

The two were the last of the eleven Pakistani nationals arrested from an Iranian boat in what the police claim to be the largest drug haul from a police operation in the country’s history.

Four Maldivians and three Bangladeshis were also arrested, but only five of the eighteen remain in custody. Six of the nine Iranians were released on the orders of the Criminal Court.

Of the three Bangladeshi nationals who were arrested from the boat, two were released by the Criminal Court on June 24. Only one remains under police custody.

All four Maldivians, including a police officer, remain in custody. Two have been transferred to house arrest, one due to ill health. The police have said the suspect had earlier suffered burns to 45 percent of his body in a fire accident. Two of the Maldivians arrested have previous records drugs related crimes, police has said.

The police have declined to reveal details of the suspects.

The street value of the drugs is estimated to be worth MVR 100 million (USD 6.5 million).

The operation

The police in March described the 24 kg heroin seize as one of the toughest operations in its history.

A sixteen member police team was involved in monitoring the movements of a local boat called “Violet” between March 4 and 10. The boat met Iran’s Hormuz at a rendezvous point 30 nautical miles outside the Maldives Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on March 10. Hormuz had set sail from Iran’s Chahbahar seaport.

A small dinghy was offloaded from Hormuz onto Violet. When Violet reached Hulhumalé, the two local smugglers boarded the dinghy and were arrested from the island’s lagoon that night. The remaining arrests were made the next day on March 11.

The four locals arrested include the two primary smugglers, captain of Violet, and a police officer who used a local money transfer service to send money to an Iranian agent

Hormuz was caught seven nautical miles outside the Maldives’ EEZ.

In a very detailed account of the operation, police said they listened to phone conversations between the two suspected local smugglers and their Iranian counterpart and followed them police for several days.

A 46 member team comprising of the intelligence and drug enforcement department were involved in the operation, police have said.


Police reveal details of record drugs seizure

Police have released detailed information of the special operation conducted to seize 24kgs of heroin smuggled into the Maldives using an Iranian vessel last month.

A police officer implicated in the crime as well as the 11 Pakistani nationals on the Iranian vessel were among the 18 persons arrested in connection with the case.

In the statement the police said that officers involved in the operation experienced things that they had never experienced before, and it was noted that the police officers aboard the speedboat were not carrying any weapons.

Police said that officers involved in the operation first followed two Maldivians who went to Villimalé on March 4 where the Maldivian boat the ‘Violet’ was prepared to set sail to meet an Iranian vessel which had journeyed from Chahabar, Iran.

When the two Maldivians reached the boat docked in Villimalé harbour, the boat captain and three expats working on board had already made all preparations to set sail towards North Ari atoll at around 3:30pm.

Police officers were assigned to follow the ‘Violet’ on a gulf craft speedboat as it left Malé with intercepted communications revealing that the Maldivian boat planned to meet with the Iranian craft at 11pm that evening.

The boat reached North Ari atoll at 6:15pm, stopping in the ocean between Rasdhoo and Mathiveri, before making its first trip to meet the Iranian vessel at 3:30am in the morning.

According to police, the meeting point of the Iranian vessel and the ‘Violet’ was 30 nautical miles north of North Ari atoll. The Maldivian boat travelled outside the EEZ of the Maldives in heavy rain and rough seas with the police speedboat following throughout.

When the ‘Violet’ reached the meeting point, its crew was informed that the Iranian ship was still 450 miles away from the meeting point, and that they will take 56 hours to get there. The ‘Violet’ subsequently returned to North Ari atoll.

Police said the two men police originally followed subsequently returned to Malé, contacting their agent in Iran at 11:30pm to get details regarding the next attempted rendezvous.

The following day, as the ‘Violet’ refueled in preparation for its second trip to meet the Iranian vessel, the two Maldivians suspects attempted to transfer money to agents in Iran.

Police have revealed that the money was transferred by a member of the Maldives Police Service who has subsequently been arrested in connection with the case.

The next day ‘Violet’ travelled on the same route as before, again stopping between Ukulhas and Mathiveri, before being contacted at 12:45am by the Iranian ship which explained that it was 200 miles from the meeting point.

After receiving this news, the Maldivian boat travelled towards Baa Atoll – outside Maldivian territorial waters – and waited there until the Iranian vessel informed the crew that the drugs were hidden inside a small dingy in the Iranian vessel.

The following day (March 9) the Maldivian vessel reached the meeting point, but again had to wait for the Iranian vessel to get there the next morning.

When the two boats met the the Maldivian boat took a small dingy released by the Iranian vessel and began its trip back to Malé late in the afternoon of March 10, the police statement said.

Upon their arrival in Hulhumale’ that evening, all aboard ‘Violet’ were arrested and the drugs seized.

After collecting enough information to begin the operation, police assigned 16 officers to follow ‘Violet’: five intelligence officers were based in Mathiveri Island, a surveillance team consisting on seven officers was created.

Eight intelligence officers were assigned as a ground analysis team, and a further five were assigned as ground technical team. Three intelligence officers were assigned as covert team and two others were used to trace communications, the police statement revealed.