Former vice president Ahmed Adeeb was detained on Thursday by immigration authorities at the Indian port of Tuticorin.
He was detected as an unregistered “extra person” on a tugboat called Virgo 9, Indian media reported.
Hours after the news broke, Maldives police confirmed that Adeeb has been apprehended “en route after he escaped by sea.” Efforts were underway to bring him back to the country, police said, warning of investigations and legal action against those who helped the former convict leave the country despite a travel ban imposed by the Supreme Court.
The 37-year-old fled after he was summoned to appear for questioning on Wednesday over the theft of US$90 million from state coffers in the country’s biggest corruption scandal, police noted.
In a statement, the Indian external affairs ministry spokesman said Adeeb had been denied entry because he did not seek to enter “through a designated entry point and did not possess the valid document.”
After three years in prison, Adeeb was transferred to house arrest last November in the wake of former president Abdulla Yameen’s defeat in the presidential election. The appeal courts later wiped out his 33-year jail sentence on terrorism and corruption charges, citing political influence over his trials.
But the Supreme Court ordered immigration to hold his passport after the Prosecutor General’s office filed appeals challenging the High Court rulings that set aside his convictions.
The prosecution was also planning to call Adeeb as a key witness in former president Yameen’s money laundering trial.
Earlier on Thursday, an eyewitness shared with the Maldives Independent a video showing Indian security officials active at the Tuticorin port while the tug boat Virgo 9 was anchored off the harbour.