Man caught trafficking drugs escapes conviction

Travellers outside the departure terminal of Velana International Airport | Photo: Dhauru

Malé, Maldives – A Maldivian man arrested during an attempt to smuggle drugs through Velana International Airport (VIA) has narrowly escaped from being convicted, after the Criminal Court decided that charges were raised against him after the legal period to press charges had passed.

The Kuda Huvadhoo man identified as Abdullah Junaan Ibrahim was first suspected to have been carrying drugs and was subsequently arrested at Velana International Airport following checks as he attempted to fly out of the airport’s domestic terminal on 22 February, 2020 at around 11:26.

According to the charges raised against him, a total of 497.8 grams of diamorphine were found on his person when taken in for a thorough security check after a suspicious item was towards the back pocket of his pants during the initial security check.

Despite being arrested and charged of the crime, Junaan was released and the charges against him were dropped after Criminal Court Judge Dheebanaz Fahmy decided in favour of the dependent’s appeal, stating that the charges against the defendant were raised after the deadline to do so in such cases had passed.

Judge Fahmy’s decision was based on the fact that there were no documents suggesting that the Prosecutor General’s Office had extended the duration of investigation. As such, it was declared that the charges were raised after the legally required period.

As per Maldivian laws, if an individual is arrested, this legal period is 30 days from the day the individual is initially presented before a judge. Should the crime be of significant magnitude and requires additional time to be investigated, the Prosecutor General’s Office has the authority to extend the duration by another 30 days. If the investigation is being carried out without arresting the individual, the investigative period granted by law is 45 days.

It has been reported that Junaan Ibrahim was voluntarily released from custody by the police before the expiry of his initial remand, due to which it was deemed that he was not charged within the duration required by law, as the law does not specify the duration within which charged should be pressed against those who are released from custody prior to the expiry of remand.

During the hearing, the state argued that in such a case, the duration within which charges should be pressed is 45 days. However, Judge Fahmy stated that the referred article of the Criminal Prosecure Code (article 94) cannot be defined as such.

Had Jumaan Ibrahim been convicted of the charges raised against him, he would have faced a prison sentence of 25 years on top of a MVR 100,000 to 10 million fine.