2 people sentenced to life for drug smuggling

Officers of Maldives Police Service handling confiscated items | Photo: Maldives Police Service

Male’, Maldives – A controlled delivery drug operation has led to the arrest of two individuals, who were subsequently found guilty and sentenced to life by the Criminal court.

In January of 2018, drugs were found in a document envelope during a x-ray scan of a parcel in a post office. Police then allowed the parcel to go through and commenced a controlled delivery operation, which resulted with the arrest of Imran Wajdhy of Zikuruvilla, S. Maradhoo and Ali Jibreel of MA. Dheyliyaagey, K.Male.

Controlled delivery is a technique that allows suspicious shipments or cargo to leave, pass through or enter a jurisdiction with the knowledge and supervision of authorities to identify the individuals involved.

The operation

After police were informed of the drugs, they allowed for the drugs to be sent to a destination locker, where they lay in wait for whoever came to pick up the package.

Imran Wajdhy was arrested here when he used the code for the locker and retrieved the package. He claimed that the package was for Ali Jibreel, who was later arrested when he came for the package to Imran’s residence.

Police officers seen near a car which was carrying drugs after a successful sting operation in the capital city of Male’ | Photo: Avas

Under a court order, Police used a set of keys that were found on Jibreel to open a room in Imran’s residence when they found a safe with 10.45 grams of diamorphine (heroin) in two rubber packets.

The police also matched the DNA collected from masks inside the closet to Imran and Jibreel’s, and found paraphernalia used to pack drugs from inside the closet.

Police officers involved in the operation and officers involved in making the forensic reports were put forward as witnesses by the state, while witnesses put forward by the defense were rejected as the deadline had passed.

The trial

During Imran and Jibreel’s hearings, the main point of contention raised by the defense was that the defendants were prosecuted not based on the contents of the parcel sent through post, but based on the heroin found in the safe.

The defense argued that the charges were therefore void due to lack of basis. However, the Criminal Court stated in the verdict that the explanation regarding the parcel brought in through post in the charge sheet was to provide context.

The Criminal Court noted that even though the defense claimed that the evidence was collected illegally, police entered the apartment with Imran’s permission and collected the evidence under a court order.

They added that the other argument by the defense- that the drugs found in the case cannot be linked to Imran and Jibreel is disproved as their DNA was found in masks found in the same closet from where the drugs were found.

The defense also attempted to prove that the apartment in question was not used by Imran and Jibreel alone, however, the court stated that testimony from police officers establish there was no evidence of others inhabiting the apartment even when the police had run the operation.

The verdict

Criminal Court Judge Hassan Saeed, last Monday, found the two guilty of the charges against them beyond reasonable doubt and sentenced them to life in prison, along with fines of MVR 100,000 .

The Maldivian Anti-Narcotics Act states that over 4 grams of diamorphine in possession of a non-addict provides grounds to establish intent to distribute, with the same act stating that diamorphine trafficking is punishable with a life sentence of 25 years and a fine within the rage of MVR 100,000 to MVR 10,000,000.

Drugs found by Maldives Police Service from an uninhabited island in G. Dh. Atoll in April, 2019. | Photo: Maldives Police Service.

The government faced harsh criticism last December due to various drug related cases, with many protesting the apparent leniency toward drug offences by the government after a drug lord serving a life sentence was released just after 3 years.

Since then, the government began a large crackdown on drug abuse, with numerous arrests, multiple sting operations and the incineration of 200 kilos of drugs which was attended by public observers and media.

However, after The Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office decided last Tuesday to not appeal GDh. Gadhdhoo court’s decision to toss out a case regarding 5 individuals arrested with 149Kg of drugs in 2019, public backlash on the matter has been reignited.

Former Home Minister of Maldives, Umar Naseer, while speaking on the matter stated that PG failing to appeal the 149kg drug case and dismissing the charged five suspects shows lack of constitutionalism in the country, adding that drug lords have embedded roots deep within the government.