Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari, a former Islamic affairs minister, was briefly detained Sunday at Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike Airport for carrying large sums of cash in his handbag.
Colombo-based local daily Daily Mirror reported Monday that airport officials had arrested a 53-year-old Maldivian man for trying to “smuggle out” US$45, 000 to the Maldives.
The cash was hidden in his travelling bag, the newspaper said.
Majeed, a member of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, denied being arrested and said that he was only questioned by the police.
“It’s harassment from some people to shadow all this talk of the government’s corruption and the Al-Jazeera documentary. It’s actually the government making a huge deal out of this, by giving intelligence and such,” Majeed told newspaper Mihaaru, referring to an upcoming corruption exposé that has rattled the government.
Majeed said he missed his flight, but was able to board another flight and arrived in the Maldives late Sunday night.
Shortly after his arrival, he posted an update on Twitter saying, “I am now in Malé. Alhamdhulillah. May we be saved from the harassment of tyrants. Amen.”
According to the Sri Lankan central bank, any person taking out more than US$5,000 in cash from the country must declare the sum to the customs department.
When contacted by the Maldives Independent, Majeed wasn’t willing to share the details of the incident.
Instead, he reiterated that the incident has been blown out of proportion to divert attention from the Al-Jazeera documentary.
The much-awaited documentary has heightened tensions in Male’ with ruling party lawmakers and government ministers appearing on TV talk shows and press conferences daily.