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News in brief: 150kg of heroin seized en route to Maldives

A local fishing boat went to collect the drug shipment.



In a joint operation with India and Sri Lanka, the Maldives coastguard and police on Saturday seized 150kg of heroin from a boat en route from Pakistan.

The boat was stopped in Maldivian waters after the coastguard was alerted by Indian security agencies, which detected the boat on September 30 about 500 nautical miles or 926 km off the Kochi coast, according to reports in Indian media.

The Maldives National Defence Force revealed on Monday that a Maldivian fishing boat called Heydhakuri-7 was also seized from the region in a joint operation conducted with police. Intelligence information suggested the local boat was travelling to collect the drug shipment, according to the MNDF. 

Two Maldivians and two foreigners were arrested from the local boat. 

The foreign boat was seized about 27.5 nautical miles northwest of Thuraakunu, the country’s northernmost island. The Maldivian authorities were alerted by the Indian coastguard on October 1.  

The boat was travelling under an Iranian flag with six crew members. But documentation about the boat’s country of origin has not been found yet, MNDF said. 

The Maldives, Sri Lanka and India cooperate in monitoring the Indian Ocean under a tripartite maritime security pact signed in July 2013.

In July, Indian newspaper The Hindu reported that the bulk of the hashish smuggled to Kerala from marijuana-growing regions in Andhra Pradesh is trafficked to the Maldives. In late April, Maldives police found 149kg of heroin and cannabis buried on an uninhabited island in the southern Gaaf Dhaalu atoll. With an estimated street value of MVR260 million (US$16 million), it was the largest haul from a single operation.

The first European Union Business Roundtable in the Maldives took place on Monday at the capital Malé with discussions co-chaired by Economic Development Minister Fayyaz Ismail and EU Ambassador Tung-Lai Margue. 

Speaking at the opening session, the minister expressed hope of resolving challenges faced in increasing fish exports to the EU.

The roundtable event will include presentations on investment opportunities as well as the new national development formulated by the current administration, the EU embassy said in a press release on Sunday. The Maldives Fund Management Corporation was also due to make a presentation followed by a question and answer session. 

“Existing EU businesses in Maldives and potential investors will be participating in this event,” it added.

The EU Business Roundtable was announced during the official visit of European Commission Vice President Frederica Mogherini last August with the aim of providing “a platform to facilitate and improve trade and investment by European companies in the Maldives.” 

A former lawmaker joined business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhooree Party with 300 of his supporters.

MP Mohamed Waheed handed over membership forms from his former constituency to JP leader Gasim at an event on Sunday night. The former MP for Thulusdhoo was among a dozen Progressive Party of Maldives MPs who were stripped of their seats in 2017 after defecting to the opposition. Only one of the 12 MPs won re-election.

Several former PPM lawmakers who failed to retain their seats in April’s parliamentary elections also joined the JP in late August along with former vice president Abdulla Jihad and former home minister Azleen Ahmed.

Four people were arrested on Sunday from the Holhudhoo island of Addu City after a man was found unconscious on Saturday. The assault victim was found with head wounds and other injuries, according to the police. 

The male suspects were aged 22, 23, 24 and 25, police said.

India has decided to release the crew of a Maldivian fishing boat seized in Indian territorial waters. The Indian government informed the foreign ministry on Monday that the Anbaree boat and its crew will be released, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid tweeted.

The boat was reportedly stopped about three miles off the coast of Minicoy island north of the Maldives on Saturday. 

Confirming the release of the boat and crew, the fisheries ministry on Monday reiterated its appeal for Maldivian vessels not to enter the Exclusive Economic Zone of neighbouring countries.

MVR2.5 million (US$161,895) has been raised to help people displaced by a tragic fire incident in Malé, the National Disaster Management Agency said on Sunday. 

A further MVR50,000 was raised from a jumble sale organised by volunteers on Monday, the NDMA tweeted.

The September 20 fire incident broke out in a chemical storage warehouse in the capital’s Henveiru ward and quickly engulfed several other buildings. A 46-year-old woman died and 26 buildings were evacuated, several of which have since been demolished.

The funds were raised through donations from the public and from both state-owned and private enterprises.

In the aftermath of the fire, the government banned warehousing in the densely-packed capital and announced plans to relocate warehouses to the Thilafushi industrial island.

Twenty-four fire lorries and five speedboats donated by Japan have been sent from the capital to 14 other islands across the country, the Maldives National Defence Force tweeted on Monday morning. 

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