MMPRC’s fireworks import suspected of links to boat blast

MMPRC’s fireworks import suspected of links to boat blast
October 20 22:05 2015

The Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) remains shut down over an investigation into suspected links between the corporation’s import of fireworks and a blast on the president’s speedboat.

MMPRC, a state-owned corporation tasked with promoting Maldives as a tourism destination, had imported a shipment of fireworks claiming they were children’s toys, a government official told The Maldives Independent today.

Mohamed Junaid, the CEO of Maldives Ports Ltd, said the shipment had been cleared through customs and was held for the MMPRC at a government warehouse in Malé’s suburb Hulhumalé.

Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) had been involved in helping the deliberately mislabeled shipment. 

The government says the explosion on the “Finifenma” speedboat on September 28 was an attempt to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen.

An MMPRC employee who wished to remain anonymous said the corporation had imported a fireworks shipment for use in tourism events across the country.

“All documents related to the imported pyrotechnics have been made available to the police and military,” the employee said.

A reliable source also confirmed to The Maldives Independent that a team of soldiers led by Captain Ali Ihusan has conducted searches of the MMPRC fireworks stock in Hulhumalé this weekend.

Ihusan is a member of a national inquiry commission formed by the president to investigate the alleged assassination attempt.

The police and military raided the MMPRC offices on Friday night. Staff have since been blocked from entering the office this week by policeman and soldiers posted at the door.

The police also raided the home of Abdulla Ziyath, managing director of MMPRC and a close associate of Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, last week. He has been questioned at the police headquarters during the past two days. He has also been barred from leaving the country.

A police media official confirmed that some members of the MMPRC staff are being questioned in the ongoing investigation. The official declined to reveal the nature of the investigation.

Meanwhile, the MMPRC employee also said that all roadshows and tourism promotion trips have been cancelled, with the exception of travelling to the World Travel Market fair scheduled to be held early November in the UK.

Deputy Minister of Tourism Hussain Lirar told CNM that the cancellations were not connected to the ongoing investigation. The decision was taken to comply with the finance ministry’s request to cut down on spending, he said.

Scrapping non-essential overseas and domestic travel was among a raft of cost-cutting measures enforced this month in a bid to rein in a ballooning budget deficit.

Three soldiers have been arrested in the ongoing investigation. Yameen escaped unhurt after the blast, but First Lady Fathmath Ibrahim remains hospitalised with spine injuries.

A court warrant authorising the raid on the home of an influential businessman related to Adeeb was issued in connection to the blast on the speedboat.

Several senior government officials seen as loyal to the vice president have also been dismissed.

But Adeeb has vowed to return to the Maldives after an ongoing official visit to China, saying the “truth will be known” once the inquiry commission completes its investigation.