Fugitive Ali Waheed seeks asylum in the UK

UK Home Office | Photo: Mark Kerrison

United Kingdom – Local news reports that the former Tourism Minister who is currently charged with counts of sexual offences and sentences to jail for contempt of court, Ali Waheed is seeking asylum in the United Kingdom.

Ali Waheed is reported to be in a detention centre in the UK after overstaying his visa and is to be released sometime today.

Local news reports allege through credible sources that although attempts are being made to bring back the fugitive sentenced to over 2 months in jail for contempt of court by the Supreme Court of Maldives, the attempts are being hindered due to Waheed’s request for asylum.

Ali Waheed was previously granted refugee status by the UK under the 1951 Refugee Convention. While Maldives currently does not have an extradition treaty with the UK, the Maldives Police have previously stated that they are exploring options to bring back the fugitive.

Although local news outlets reported that Ali Waheed was arrested at approximately 16:00 in Maldives’ time on Wednesday, as he was preparing for a press conference to speak about the charges against him, Maldives Police and the Foreign Minister of Maldives informs that they have not received any information on Ali Waheed’s arrest and have not shared any such information.

Ali Waheed fled from the country, citing a medical emergency, after his passport was released. He was initially scheduled to arrive in the Maldives in early June as his medical treatment duration of 4 months had expired. However, Waheed did not return to the country and no explanation was revealed until the Criminal Court recently informed that Ali Waheed contacted the court to inform that his medical procedure has not finished, along with valid documents supporting his statement.

Waheed was removed from office on July 9, 2020, marking the first time a cabinet minister was fired over allegations of sexual abuse to his co-workers, after he failed to tender his resignation as per the order of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

The Prosecutor General’s Office charged the suspect Ali Waheed with a total of seven counts of sexual offences at the Criminal Court of the Maldives. 

These being;

  • One count of sexual abuse under article 16 of the Sexual Offences Act (17/2014)
  • One count of attempted rape under article 15 of the Sexual Offences Act (17/2014)
  • One count of indecent exposure under article 132 of The Constitution of Maldives
  • One count of sexual harassment under article 18 of the Sexual Offences Act (17/2014)
  • One count of attempted sexual abuse under article 19 of the Sexual Offences Act (17/2014)
  • Two counts of unlawful sexual contact under article 81 and 412 of Maldives Penal Code 9/2014.

In addition to the sexual harassment case, Ali Waheed is also under investigation by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) regarding eight different issues which were highlighted in the compliance report published by the Auditor General’s Office, concerning expenses made by the Ministry of Tourism with regards to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

To date, Ali Waheed has denied all the charges that have been raised against him. However, if he is found guilty of the charges levied against him, Waheed will face up to 21 years imprisonment.