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Maafushi Prison – a hub of business and brutality

A smuggled Nokia can cost an arm and a leg, plus ‘tax’.



Maafushi Prison guards are running a sophisticated smuggling network involving drugs, mobile phones and other illicit goods, according to lawmaker Mickail Naseem.

Naseem told the Maldives Independent on Thursday that he had spoken with inmates, guards and others connected with the prison who had corroborated the allegations.

“You can bring anything you want into your cell from drugs to mobile phones. Not all the guards are involved in this, but many guards are part of this corrupt network,” he said.

A run-of-the-mill US$12 mobile phone without internet connection can cost as much as $647, Naseem said, while drugs and smartphones sell at a premium.

Naseem also said guards periodically raided prison cells to confiscate contraband – to push up the market price.

“It’s is a very lucrative business. So the guards confiscate the goods to keep the market flowing,” he said.

Naseem said the full extent of the corruption inside Maafushi Prison can only be known when a thorough and independent investigations is carried out.

“I believe that the prison guards should be audited and investigated. We cannot let this continue,” he said.

A detainee at the prison, the largest in the Maldives, said Maafushi is a business hub, a market place, where everything from coffee to copper wire is up for sale.

“The business is always there. The price depends on the market. For example, a cheap phone can cost $1,600 if there was a raid the week before,” he said.

The inmate, speaking by telephone, said contraband is smuggled into the prison two ways – via a corrupt guard or through a detainee who is assigned to work outside the jail grounds. Either way, nothing escapes the authorities, who take a cut.

“The detainee has to pay off the guards if he wants to smuggle anything, while the guard also has a senior officer who is in cahoots with him,” he said.

The corruption allegations come as the spotlight is on Maafushi Prison over abuse of prisoners by guards. On June 20, dozens of Emergency Support Group officers dragged six inmates from Unit 4 out of their cells, handcuffed them behind their backs and  beat them with batons for about an hour – before shaving their heads and pepper spraying their private parts.

The abuse was acknowledged by Home Minister Imran Abdulla, who subsequently suspended the commander of the ESG and said punitive measures would be taken against those responsible.