Additional reporting by Hassan Mohamed
The Maldives police have declared a hunt for eight associates of detained Vice President Ahmed Adeeb on suspicion of links to an alleged assassination attempt on President Abdulla Yameen.
Home Minister Umar Naseer announced today that the eight are wanted in connection to the September 28 explosion on the “Finifenma” speedboat, and called on the families of the suspects “to ask them to come back to Maldives immediately and help our investigation.”
All eight are out of the country.
“If not we will issue red notice for these people through Interpol. These men are involved in a terrorist attack and they are hiding,” said Naseer, the co-chair of a special inquiry commission formed to investigate the alleged bomb plot.
Three of the eight promptly issued statements saying they were not fugitives. The three said their only offense appears to be their support for Adeeb, who was arrested on October 24 on a charge of high treason.
Of the eight suspects announced today, one is wanted in connection to a weapons cache discovered Friday on an island leased for resort development.
The weapons cache – which include firearms, grenades and improvised explosive devices – are linked to Mohamed Allam Latheef ‘Moho,’ the police have said. Latheef is a shareholder of Biznas Maldives, the company which holds the lease for Hibalhidhoo Island in Baa Atoll.
Latheef’s lawyer Husnu Suood told the press today that the only reason his client is being associated with the weapons is because of his friendship with Adeeb.
Latheef’s residence in Malé, Maafanu Cessna, was raided on the day of Adeeb’s arrest by armed soldiers and policemen.
Suood meanwhile noted that the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has acknowledged that a rifle and a submachine gun from the weapons haul had gone missing from the state armoury.
“So Mohamed Allam Latheef says he could not have had access to such weapons,” he said.
Suood said Latheef does not have a criminal record and had never been detained or questioned by the police. He is willing to cooperate with the police investigation and says “he has nothing to hide,” the former attorney general added.
Latheef is the lead singer of a popular local band called Scores of Flair.
The others wanted are Ahmed Ishfah Ali, guitarist of Scores of Flair, Mohamed Hussain ‘Oittey,’ an ex-national team football team player, Mohamed Wisham, Ahmed Fathih, a former police officer, Ahmed Ashraf ‘Shumba Gong,’ a social media activist, Hussain Sinan, also a social media activist, and Mohamed Aseel Ahmed, deputy managing director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).
“Looking at conversations of these men and other information gathered in the investigation these men are very important to the investigation,” Naseer said.
Sinan issued a statement to the media saying: “I am not in hiding. I’m in Sri Lanka for medical care. I am active on social media everyday. I have nothing to hide. It appears my crime is supporting Adeeb. I will remain steadfast with Adeeb. I will come to Malé tomorrow.”
Abdulla Ziyath, a close associate of the vice president and the managing director of the MMPRC, was also arrested a day before Adeeb. He is charged with corruption.
The police are investigating the state owned tourism promotion company’s illegal import of fireworks as well as alleged corruption in leasing islands for resort development.
A total of seven, including Adeeb, are in custody over the blast.
This includes Hamid Ismail, an influential businessman and Adeeb’s uncle, who was arrested in Malaysia last week and deported to the Maldives last Friday. His detention, on a charge of threatening the president, has now been extended by 15 days.
Three soldiers who are all explosives experts are also among the seven in detention.
In a public address last week, President Yameen said the fireworks shipment was rushed through customs and suggested that gunpowder from the fireworks could have been used to make a bomb.
Meanwhile, Assistant Commissioner of Police Abdulla Nawaz told the press last night that a second company Latheef owns, SOF Pvt Ltd., “received a lot of benefits” from and worked closely with the MMPRC.
“The MMPRC was functioning under the tourism ministry. Adeeb was the tourism minister earlier, and SOF is a company that has received a lot of benefits from MMPRC. Since Mohamed Allam Latheef is a close associate of Adeeb, and since RDX was found on Finifenmaa, and since we believe RDX is present in the explosives today, we think all of this is closely linked,” Nawaz said.