Four Maldivians and two foreign nationals were arrested Tuesday night while trying to store more than 400 liquor bottles and 80 cans of beer in a house in Malé.
Briefing the press about the operation, Inspector Rajni Shuaib said the Maldivian suspects have criminal records for assault and alcohol consumption whilst the two foreigners were undocumented workers.
The suspects were using the rented house for their illegal alcohol sales, the acting head of the drug enforcement department said Wednesday. Preliminary investigations have established that the alcohol was released from a bonded warehouse in Hulhumalé to a safari vessel, he added.
He appealed for cooperation from safari and speedboat operators and Malé homeowners to tackle the entrenched alcohol black market.
As alcohol consumption is prohibited by Islam, liquor import licenses are only issued to tourism businesses for sale to non-Maldivians.
Locals caught drinking alcohol are fined and sentenced to 40 lashes. A flogging sentence was most recently handed to a 27-year-old man who was found intoxicated by police officers in January last year.
A Maldivian consuming alcohol or pork is a class three misdemeanour in the 2014 penal code. A convict may receive a jail sentence ranging from six days to three months.
The law also gives a judge the authority to pass an additional sentence of 40 lashes, as consuming alcohol or pork is a hudud offence – a crime for which a punishment is prescribed under sharia law.
Although the Maldives legal system is a combination of sharia and common law, sharia sentences are uncommon. An amendment brought to the penal code in 2015 requires all appeal processes be exhausted before Islamic sharia punishments can be meted out.