President Abdulla Yameen has been accused of lying about the details of a Maldivian-flagged oil tanker alleged to have broken UN-led sanctions against North Korea.
Japan earlier this week said it had notified the UN Security Council of the suspected transfer of goods from a tanker operating under a Maldivian flag to a North Korean vessel.
Authorities have repeatedly and vehemently denied the tanker is registered in the Maldives. The country’s transport authority said there was no record of the Xin Yuan 18 ever being registered there and that it did not offer ‘flag of convenience’ services to vessels operating outside its waters.
It also said it would punish media publishing false information about the tanker, Avas reported.
The President’s Office condemned the use of the Maldivian flag and said the MMSI number – the nine digits used to identify vessels in radio communications – of the Xin Yuan 18 was not registered in the Maldives.
The MMSI number quoted by the President’s Office is associated with the Xin Yuan 18 on several vessel-tracking websites.
But the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) MMSI number for the Xin Yuan 18 is different.
Akram Kamaludheen, a minister with former president Mohamed Nasheed’s government, accused the President’s Office of lying.
“You are blatantly misleading public and also trying to twist to the international community,” he tweeted.
The Xin Yuan 18 is registered under the flag of the Maldives with the MMSI number 455123170, according to the IMO’s global integrated shipping information system.
The tanker is owned by Ha Fa Trade International, a company registered in Hong Kong. Its sole director is Tang Yun Hui, whose residential address is in China.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party went one step further than Kamaludheen and said the Xin Yuan 18 was linked to Yameen’s family.
The MDP, citing unnamed sources, claimed the vessel appeared to be connected to a nephew of Yameen and a former colonel of the Maldives National Defence Force, Ahmed Ziyad, and his company Green Box. Ziyad has denied the links.
The Maldives Independent asked to see documents to support the allegations but the MDP was unable to provide them.
A military aircraft spotted the Xin Yuan 18 lying alongside a North Korean-flagged vessel around 250 kilometres east of Shanghai February 24, Japan’s foreign ministry said Tuesday.
It was previously known as Victory Prima and registered under the Indonesian flag since 1998. In November 2017 the tanker’s name changed to Xin Yuan 18 and was registered under the flag of Niue, an island country in the south Pacific Ocean. Its registered flag was changed to the Maldives a month later.
Photo: Japan Ministry of Defense