Shark fin exporters still not prosecuted due to delays from Customs

Customs seized 429kg of shark fins at Velana International Airport (VIA) in Male' city. | Photo via AdduLive.

Malé, Maldives – The case of 429kg of shark fins which was confiscated at Velana International Airport while being exported, has still not been prosecuted due to delays in Maldives Customs completing the necessary elements of the investigation.

Maldives Customs office in early January, seized 21 boxes filled with 429kg of shark fins at Velana International Airport (VIA) with the help of Aviation Security Command. The shipment was packed in Enzi boxes. Customs announced later in a tweet that though the shipment was packed in Enzi boxes, the consignee who declared the shipment to Customs is not Enzi.

The Prosecutor General’s Office said that although Customs completed the investigation and sent it to the PG Office, the case is still in the Duty Prosecution phase due to missing elements in the investigation. PG Office said that they are instructing Customs on how to proceed.

In addition to this, the Prosecutor General’s Office said that Customs sent the case into duty prosecution phase after over two months since the fins were confiscated on March 18. The PG’s Office sent back the case for completing certain aspects and it was later again submitted to the duty phase after a month and half on May 15. The case was again sent back for revisions for the third time and they received it after over 2 months last Sunday.

In addition to this, Customs was investigating into another case of illegal shark fin export, in which they confiscated 4kg of shark fins. The PG’s office sent back the case for revisions on March 18 and has not yet received it back.

Media official from Customs Fathmath Shifaza said giving information to local media Mihaaru, that the delays in completing the revisions to the case are due to the difficulties faced by the authority due to the ongoing pandemic. She said that they are unable to do certain things such as summon certain people for questioning due to quarantine. She also added that they face difficulties in procuring certain information from other relevant authorities.

Maldives banned shark fishing and the export of shark fins in 2010. Customs informed that the shark fins were concealed in a shipment declared as salt fish and were being shipped abroad to gain profit from them. They informed that further investigations are ongoing to find the culprit behind this act.

While Maldives is widely known as the destination with world’s largest population of reef manta rays and the only destination in the world where sharks can be seen as gentle giants all year round, these animals are illegally caught and used as food or as a source of money by some locals and some foreigners.