A drug haul with an estimated street value of MVR7.5 million (US$486,000) was seized on July 9 from a boat en route to Malé from the Indian port of Tuticorin.
The drugs were seized in a 72-hour joint operation conducted by the police and customs, Inspector of Police Aminath Suzy and Chief Superintendent of Customs Ismail Hamdhoon told the press last week.
After monitoring the boat based on an intelligence tip-off, police and customs officers stopped and boarded it near the island of Feydhoo Finolhu and arrested a 61-year-old man.
The drugs were found in the boat’s storage room. Some six cellophane packets with 8.5kg of hash oil and four packets containing 1.1kg of heroin were seized.
Two men, aged 24 and 55, were arrested later in a “control delivery operation.” All three suspects are Maldivians.
In early June, the police seized 29 kilos of heroin and arrested four in the biggest drug bust in the country’s history.
The largest drug bust prior to that involved 24kg of heroin smuggled into the Maldives on an Iranian boat in March 2014.
Only two of the 18 suspects are standing trial. Some 11 Pakistanis arrested were later deported.
The criminal court wrapped up hearings in early June.
Earlier this month, two Maldivians were arrested in Colombo with 385g of heroin. According to Sri Lankan media, the pair were “suspected to be major players in a drug racket operating between Pakistan and Maldives through Sri Lanka.”
Some six Maldivians were also arrested in Sri Lanka earlier this year on charges of drug trafficking. The two separate cases involved some 4kg of heroin.
The Maldivians arrested in both cases were also thought to be part of a wider drug network operating in Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Petty drug users are often arrested and charged with possession in the Maldives, but both the police and courts have a history of releasing suspected drug traffickers.
Convictions in high-profile drug trafficking cases are rare.
According to a 2012 UN report, there are 7,496 drug addicts in the Maldives. However, critics say the real figure is likely to be much higher as the country’s entrenched drug problem has grown to endemic proportions during the past three decades.