The Maldives’ main opposition party on Monday alleged collusion at the highest levels of government over the sale of fuel to North Korea by ships fraudulently using the country’s flag.
A detailed report has been released by the Maldivian Democratic Party, which told media that a complaint and request to investigate the issue has been filed with the Anti-Corruption Commission.
The MDP alleges that a company owned by a former colonel from the Maldives National Defence Force was conducting illegal fuel sales to the UN-sanctioned North Korean regime and that President Abdulla Yameen was connected to the scheme.
In February, Japan notified the UN Security Council of the suspected transfer of goods from a tanker with a Maldivian flag to a North Korean vessel in violation of international sanctions.
A military aircraft spotted the Maldivian-flagged tanker Xin Yuan 18 lying alongside a North Korean-flagged tanker around 250 km east of Shanghai at midnight on February 24, according to a statement from Japan’s foreign ministry.
The government denied the vessel was from the Maldives and condemned “the use of our national flag in a manner so as to tarnish the good standing and reputation of our nation and that of our people” while assuring its support for implementing security council resolutions.
Accusations were made at the time that the ship was connected to retired MNDF colonel Mohamed Ziyad, the owner of Green Box, a shipping company registered in the Maldives. Ziyad has denied any connection to the incident.
In its dossier, the MDP released a report compiled by the Defence Intelligence Service of the MNDF.
According to the leaked document another ship belonging to Longline International Ship Management Company, the owner of Xin Yuan 18, used the Maldives flag in January this year. The ship named Prospery used the call sign of a Maldivian-registered oil tanker, Transfuel 11. Transfuel 11 is owned by Green Box, according to the report.
The report also said a Taiwanese vessel, Ocean Porpoise, had used a Maldivian flag and callsigns since October 2017. This ship used the call sign of a Maldivian fishing vessel, the report said.
Yameen has a connection to Green Box over phone calls he made to the Bank of Maldives to secure a loan for the company, the opposition alleges.
“The bank confirmed that Green Box applied in 2016 to the bank to obtain loans to purchase five oil tankers and that President Yameen pressured bank board members to approve the loan. Despite Yameen’s pressure, given that the bank’s good name was tarnished in the MMPRC corruption scandal, the bank turned down the application the bank said,” according to the MDP report.
– Missing fuel and oil sales –
The MDP also released a letter sent by the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji, which advised the International Maritime Organization about fraudulent use of the Fijian flag. Sea Treasure, the former name of Transfuel 7, now owned by Green Box, is in a list of vessels illegally using Fiji’s flag. The list was attached to the letter.
Maldivian authorities arrested a local businessman in March in connection to the fraudulent use of Maldivian flag. Abdulla Fahumee is charged with terrorism and attempts to overthrow the government.
The MDP dossier includes an image of the Maldivian registry of Prospery. The fraudulent registry certificate was issued by using seals and forged documents of the Maldives Transport Authority. The document is signed by Fahumee, who claims to be a deputy registrar of the authority.
In the intelligence report, Fahumee is connected to Ziyad through a Singaporean company where Fahumee used to work.
“It is known that Fahumee previously worked, along with colonel Mohamed Ziyad (retired), for a Singaporean national named Michael who provided oil tankers to Maldivian parties. It is believed this Michael is the director of a Singaporean company named Asia Pacific Shipping Private Limited, Michael Tan,” the report says.
The MDP also alleged that missing fuel from Green Box tankers pointed towards illegal oil sales.
“In 2017, Green Box’s Transfuel 9 (formerly Samarai) loaded 1,300 tons of oil from abroad but only declared 600 tons to Maldives Customs. In July 2017, Transfuel 11 (formerly Puteri Aur) loaded 400 tons of oil but only declared 100 tons to Maldives Customs,” the report said.
“This is not a new allegation, is it? What we always say is go through the proper channels to investigate such accusations,” President’s Office spokesman Ibrahim Muaz told the Maldives Independent.
In 2011 Yameen was implicated in a scheme, worth US$800 million, of black market oil sales to the then UN-sanctioned Burmese junta by India’s The Week. The report led to an investigation by Singaporean authorities and a Maldivian inquiry by a presidential commission through a UK-based forensic accountancy firm, Grant Thornton.
In 2012 president Dr Mohamed Waheed terminated the Grant Thornton contract, paying £4.6 million to halt the oil trade investigation.
A spokesman for the Bank of Maldives was not responding to calls. MNDF spokesman Ibrahim Azim said the military did not have a comment.