Maldivian police said they have seized 29 kilos of heroin and arrested four in the biggest drug bust in the country’s history.
The heroin, thought to originate from Pakistan, was dropped off outside Alif Dhaalu Atoll in the early hours of Tuesday, the police said. The drugs were packed in plastic bags and stored in gas cylinders.
Police estimated the seizure’s street value at MVR145million (US$9.4million)
The four suspected drug smugglers were from the Maldives and Bangladesh.
Ahmed Sadooh, of Raikokaage in Malé’s Maafannu ward, was the ringleader, police said. He has a record of alcohol use, gang violence, and was arrested for attempting a burglary on a resort, Baros Maldives.
His accomplice, Mohamed Niushad of Aasthana in Laamu Atoll Maamendhoo Island, has a record for assault and sexual violence. Niushad was the captain of the boat that had picked up the cylinders.
The four were remanded for 15 days.
The largest drug bust prior to Tuesday’s seizure 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 the case earlier this month.
Some six Maldivians have been arrested in Sri Lanka this year on charges of drug trafficking. The two separate cases involved some 4kg of heroin.
Police said the Maldivians arrested in both cases were part of a wider drug network operating in Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Petty drug users are often arrested and charged with possession, but law enforcement authorities 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.