State witnesses have testified in favour of human trafficking suspects said to have brought large numbers of migrants to the country by submitting fraudulent documents to the immigration department.
Mohamed Muahmar and Hussain Sunaih are suspected of trafficking by submitting fake construction agreements to obtain an immigration permit.
They face charges of human trafficking, lying to a government office and document forging.
The criminal court brought four witnesses Sunday, called by the state, to prove Muahmar and Sunaih submitted fake paperwork through their company Rivers Construction Pvt Ltd.
However, in a surprise turn of events three of the four witnesses testified in favour of the suspects, altering their police statements in which they claimed that no contact had been made with Rivers Construction to build their homes.
Fathimath Azlifa, who told police she had not contacted Rivers Construction about building her house in Maafannu ward, told the court she had forgotten about approaching Muammar and Sunaih.
“Later it came to my mind because I told my husband about being summoned to the police station and he reminded me about meeting with Rivers,” she said.
Abdulla Faidh also said he was not aware of arranging to do business with Rivers Construction prior to the police investigation.
“My brother-in-law later told me about doing business with a construction group about building the house,” he told the court.
Mohamed Jaleel also told the court he had met Muahmar and Sunaih but forgot the details during the police investigation.
“My statement given to the police is not completely error free. I was scared and very nervous at the time,” he said.
At one point in court the state lawyer asked a witness: “So did you lie during the police investigation or are you lying right now?” The lawyer proceeded to read aloud from the witness’ police statement until the defence team protested.
Ameela Abduh Sattar, the only state witness who testified against the suspects, said she had made an agreement with Rivers Construction but that the drawing plans and pictures submitted by the construction company to the immigration department were inaccurate.
“This is not the drawing of my house. The pictures do not match either,” she said.
The judge adjourned proceedings after declaring that more witnesses submitted by the prosecution would be heard at the next hearing.
In June, the Maldives was removed from a human trafficking watch list of the US State Department following the first successful prosecution and conviction of traffickers.