A police investigation is underway into suspected fraud in the sale of luxury apartments from the K-Park Residence, a Korean-style mixed-use complex in Hulhumalé under development by Korea’s Hanbo Company and Hong Kong contractor Shijia Group.
Hassan Mamdhuh and Jaishan Saeed, minority shareholders of local agent Hanbo Maldives, are accused of taking large sums as payments from several buyers after forging the signature of managing director Jin Shi Hu, who owns a 95% stake in the company. Both Hanbo Maldives and the state-owned Urbanco asked the police to investigate the alleged fraud.
After the allegations came to light in a statement issued by Hanbo Maldives on Tuesday, Hanbo Tech Korea terminated the K-Park development agreement with its local agent, citing difficulties in completing the project on schedule.
“This decision of Hanbo Tech Korea will not affect any agreements made or the commitment made in the name of this company in connection with this project,” the Korean company assured, asking customers to contact Jong Woo Kim at 7770773 or [email protected].
Urbanco slapped a fine of MVR100,000 (US$6,485) each on two Hiya flat tenants who broke down a wall to merge their apartments. Structural changes to the social housing units are prohibited. The tenants were ordered to pay the fine in five days and to rebuild the wall within 10 days.
The government is planning to reduce the monthly rent of the two-bedroom flats in Hulhumalé from MVR8,500 to MVR5,300, the media reported last week. The president confirmed the plans at a press conference but suggested that the reported figure might not be accurate.
A tug boat that ran aground on the reef of Haa Alif Dhidhdhoo island was re-floated after four days.
The MM Export’s Mutha Princess ran aground on Monday along with a barge carrying construction material. The barge was re-floated earlier in the week.
The Environment Protection Agency previously fined the shipping company after a tug boat and barge ran aground on the Fushidhiggaru reef in 2015. But the MVR100 million (US$6.4 million) fine reportedly remains unpaid.
Malé Mayor Dr Mohamed Muizzu denied allegations about seeking to wrest control of the Progressive Party of Maldives senate from jailed former president Abdulla Yameen.
At a city council press conference, Muizzu was repeatedly asked about allegedly arranging jobs for PPM officials – including 13 highly-paid consultants – in a bid to gain their loyalty. But Muizzu, the PPM deputy leader, categorically denied politically-motivated hiring.
In April, Malé City council member Adam Rameez resigned from the PPM after Yameen accused him of “obstructing or undermining” his candidacy.
Rameez was accused of campaigning to award the PPM ticket to Muizzu – who denied any efforts on his behalf – if the former president is unable to contest September’s election. Despite his 11-year imprisonment on bribery and money laundering charges, the opposition coalition is adamant that Yameen remains its presidential candidate, holding out hope that his conviction would be overturned on appeal.
At a PPM press event on Monday, five leadership figures touted as potential presidential candidates – including Muizzu – declared their allegiance to Yameen and denied any internal disagreements.
The council member’s resignation followed reports of divisions within the PPM leadership over the course of action if Yameen remains barred from running. Some favour fielding an alternative candidate whilst others are pushing for endorsing Jumhooree Party leader Qasim Ibrahim. But Yameen is reportedly unwilling to relinquish the ticket.
Yoosuf Siraj, managing director of the Waste Management Corporation, was suspended for an inquiry into a “management issue related to governance” by the Privatisation and Corporation Board. Siraj was relieved of duty with pay for two weeks to ensure his recusal during the inquiry, the PCB said.
According to media reports, Siraj is accused of disregarding a decision made by WAMCO’s board of directors concerning a sexual harassment case involving two employees. Siraj allegedly replaced a member of the internal sexual harassment committee after he was warned against intervening by the board.
The coastguard rescued six sailors stranded at sea after the MV Savari boat sank in the early hours of the morning. The military’s Dornier aircraft spotted the sailors 26 nautical miles east of Vaavu Fulidhoo. The coastguard’s Ghaazee ship rescued the men at 1:00 p.m and brought them to Hulhumalé. Despite spending nine hours at sea, the sailors were reported to be in good health.
The Met office declared the onset of the rainy southwest monsoon as of 3 May. The wet season normally lasts from mid-May to November.
The criteria to decide the onset is 2.5mm of rain in the southern atolls for two or more consecutive days. The wind direction also shifts to southwest or west with speeds higher than 10 nautical miles per hour.
The heaviest rainfall between Thursday night and Friday morning was recorded at Seenu Gan (120.3mm) in the southernmost atoll. The downpour caused flooding in Addu City’s Hithadhoo and Feydhoo islands.
Ibrahim Nafiz, an alleged former gang leader known as Chika, was appointed as a senior executive director at the fisheries ministry.
Nafiz was convicted in July 2008 over the possession of a sword and released by the parole board in February 2011. He was also charged with drug trafficking in March 2008 after 56g of heroin was found in his room. But he was acquitted on the grounds that the prosecution failed to conclusively tie the drugs to the defendant. The criminal court’s not guilty verdict was later upheld by both the High Court and Supreme Court.
Nafiz is currently the president of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s Madaveli branch.
The government has “deliberately forfeited” a part of Maldivian territorial waters, former attorneys general Dr Mohamed Munavvar and Aishath Azima Shukoor alleged, after the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) delimited a new maritime boundary between the Maldives and Chagos, a neighbouring archipelago in the south with an American naval base on the island of Diego Garcia.
The ITLOS judgment came after Mauritius – which claims sovereignty over Chagos (known as the British Indian Ocean Territory since the UK separated administration of the islands from its then-colony Mauritius in 1965 and forcibly removed about 2,000 Chagossians) – asked the UN tribunal to determine borders within overlapping exclusive economic zones. EEZs extend 200 nautical miles from the coast according to the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea.
A special chamber of the court in Hamburg, Germany delineated a maritime border on 28 April, using the equidistance principle to calculate a mid-point from the coasts of both states.
In the wake of the judgment, opposition politicians alleged “treason” as the government’s reversal of a decades-old stance to recognise Mauritius sovereignty over Chagos was blamed for the “loss of 44,000 square km” in the southern EEZ.
The former attorneys general met the press on Wednesday along with representatives from most political parties, including the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives and Maldives National Party as well as the Jumhooree Party and Maldives Reform Movement, both of which are part of the Maldivian Democratic Party-led governing coalition. Former State Trading Organisation managing director Hussain Amr represented Speaker Mohamed Nasheed’s anti-government faction within the MDP.
Dr Munavvar, an expert on the law of the sea who is running for president, disputed President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s claim at a press conference following the ITLOS judgment that the Maldives did not exercise control over a 200-nautical mile EEZ in the south before the demarcation of the maritime boundary.
But the Maritime Zones Act of 1996 declared a 200-nautical mile EEZ from archipelagic baselines, after which the Maldives deposited coordinates with the UN, said Munavvar, who drafted the law as attorney general (1993 to 2003). During former president Nasheed’s administration, Munavvar also chaired a committee that prepared a submission to a separate UN body in July 2010 to seek an outer limit of the Maldives’ continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. The claim – which drew a formal protest from Mauritius in 2011 over an encroachment on the Chagos shelf – also assumed a 200-nautical mile EEZ, Munavvar stressed. While the dispute is yet to come before the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Munavvar said the ITLOS judgment has undercut the Maldives claim.
When Mauritius filed its case with the tribunal in 2019 to delimit a maritime border, the Maldives should not have conceded to an equal share of the overlapping area of the EEZs, Munavvar argued. The Maldives should instead have claimed the full 200-nautical mile EEZ on the grounds that Chagos was a military base that lacked a resident population, he contended. If the northern landmasses of Chagos are considered “rocks” and not “islands” that could sustain habitation or economic activity, Mauritius would not be entitled to an EEZ or continental shelf and there would be no overlap with the Maldivian EEZ.
Alternately, the Maldives could have argued that division based on equidistance would not result in “an equitable solution” as envisaged in international law, other lawyers suggested, citing the absence of an aboriginal Chagos population that benefitted from the archipelagic seas, whereas Maldivians have fished in the southern waters for centuries.
Both the attorneys general and politicians lambasted the Solih administration for recognising Mauritius sovereignty over Chagos, a reversal of the stand maintained by successive governments that borders could not be determined until the sovereignty dispute between the UK and Mauritius was resolved.
Munavvar also insinuated Indian influence over the apparent U-turn. Government officials wearing “cow dung glasses” were unable to see national interest, he said, alleging Indian intervention on behalf of its close ally Mauritius.
The Maldives could have secured the full EEZ through a bilateral agreement with Mauritius in exchange for recognising sovereignty over Chagos, former president Nasheed – who has advised rejecting the tribunal judgment – tweeted after Munavvar’s press conference.
But the government previously insisted that “support to Mauritius’ claim on sovereignty over Chagos” was unrelated to the tribunal case concerning the southern EEZ, “whose boundaries have never been, up until the present moment, determined by the Law of Sea Convention,” and dismissed the opposition’s allegations about the president violating a constitutional requirement to seek parliamentary approval for territorial changes. The requirement applies to territorial boundaries of 12 miles from the coastline whereas demarcating EEZ boundaries was “well within the mandate of government”.
The government also welcomed Mauritius’s intention to establish a Marine Protected Area surrounding the Chagos archipelago, which would address concerns over tuna stocks that could be threatened by industrial fishing.
The International Court of Justice ruled in February 2019 that continuing British occupation of Chagos was illegal. When the UN General Assembly endorsed the advisory opinion with 116 countries calling on Britain to cede the archipelago to Mauritius, the Maldives voted against the non-binding resolution on the grounds that it could undermine the 2010 bid to establish the outer limits of the continental shelf.
But during oral arguments at ITLOS in October 2022, it emerged that the Maldives has decided to vote in favour of the next General Assembly resolution on the return of Chagos to Mauritius. President Solih relayed the decision to the Mauritius prime minister in August 2022, Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath told the tribunal.
“This decision was reached following the pronouncement by ITLOS that the ICJ advisory opinion that Mauritius has sovereign rights over Chagos will be fully accepted in the ongoing case,” the government said last week in the face of allegations of accepting bribes to “sell off Maldivian seas”.
The question of whether the neighbouring state is the UK or Mauritius was settled when the tribunal rejected objections raised by the Maldives, which challenged ITLOS jurisdiction to proceed to border delimitation despite the unresolved sovereignty dispute, University of Toronto Professor Payam Akhavan – senior counsel of the Maldives legal team – explained to the press in November.
The president’s decision to vote in favour of the ICJ opinion at the General Assembly was “the natural consequence” of the tribunal’s binding judgment that Mauritius should be considered the rightful owner of Chagos “for the purposes of drawing a maritime boundary,” Akhavan observed. The president was therefore “simply giving effect to the position which exists now”.
A Maldives claim to Chagos would also be “a non-starter” because of the ICJ judgment, Professor Akhavan told reporters at the time. Sovereignty for Mauritius despite the much larger distance to Chagos than the Maldives was a legacy of arbitrarily drawn colonial boundaries, he added.
The Law of the Sea allows EEZs to be claimed for any habitable island and geography was the sole factor in delineating maritime boundaries, the foreign experts in the Maldives legal team told the local press after the tribunal judgment on 28 April, addressing criticism over their litigation at ITLOS.
Munavvar meanwhile conceded that the Maldives has never claimed sovereignty over Chagos. But ownership was “irrelevant” to the Maldives’ ostensibly foregone claim for the full 200-nautical mile EEZ, former attorney general Azima Shukoor said in response to a question about purported Maldives sovereignty over the Chagos islands.
According to Nasheed, the Chagos atoll of Foalhavahi was recorded in most Maldivian maps drawn after 1500. King Hassan IX laid claim to its five islands in a letter dated 1560. “Maldivian captains count the Maldives territory with Foalhavahi. There is much evidence of historical and cultural ties to say that it is an island of the Maldives,” the former president tweeted last year. Chagossians – descendants of slaves and workers who were brought over after a French colony was established in the 18th century – never lived on Foalhavalhi, known to Europeans as Peros Banhos, according to Nasheed. “Even if Diego Garcia and some other atolls come under Mauritius sovereign power at a time when the British state leaves islands in the Chagos ridge, Maldivians are most deserving of sovereign power over Foalhavahi,” he argued.
The Maldives dropped 13 positions to 100th in the Reporters Without Borders’ annual press freedom index, down from 87th out of 180 countries in the 2022 index. It is the worst record since the current administration took office nearly five years ago. The Maldives previously improved its ranking from 120th in 2018 to 72nd in 2021.
The slide reflects unfulfilled pledges to end impunity for crimes against journalists, a new evidence law that authorised courts to compel disclosure of sources, and the longstanding lack of editorial independence for media outlets that rely on politicians or businesses for funding.
“Advertising is allocated without any transparency or oversight, which poses serious problems for the independence of media outlets,” RSF noted. “In several cases, media outlets with no significant readership received large sums of money from state enterprises. In return, the editors were told to remove an article that had caused displeasure or were asked not to cover a sensitive subject.”
The Maldives chapter of the International Federation of Journalists’ annual South Asia press freedom report meanwhile listed several instances of journalists facing death threats or being subject to police brutality while covering street protests. Other challenges highlighted by the IFJ included the politicised media landscape, unfair allocation of advertising by state-owned companies, and weaknesses in the labour rights legal framework.
Human Rights Watch called on the government to “create a climate in which journalists can carry out their work without fear of attack or reprisal.”
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, local journalists meanwhile staged a protest at the artificial beach in Malé, calling on the authorities to address longstanding grievances. After the protest, the journalists gathered outside the president’s office and presented a letter outlining their concerns along with the IFJ report to the president’s communications secretary Mohamed Hisan Ali.
The Maldives Journalists Association in collaboration with the regulatory bodies, Maldives Media Council and Maldives Broadcasting Commission, also organised a series of panel discussions on press freedom.
The Malé City Council decided to establish a cat shelter and neuter stray cats. A budget of MVR1.9 million (US$123,216) has been earmarked for the project, according to Mayor Dr Mohamed Muizzu, who proposed a vacant building in Malé’s Fishermen’s Park as a temporary site for the shelter, which is expected to house and care for up to 1,000 cats.
“Each cat neutered under the programme will be fitted with a microchip, and will be collared and registered for identification purposes,” the council said. “The new cat shelter’s neutering clinic will have x-ray and blood examination facilities, which can also be utilised by pet owners.”
The criminal court heard opening statements in former president Abdulla Yameen’s bribery and money laundering trial over the lease of Raa Fuggiri island.
The opposition leader is accused of accepting a US$1.1 million bribe to lease the island for resort development. The Sun Construction and Sun Investment companies of resort magnate Ahmed Siyam as well as businessman Ahmed Riza were charged as co-defendants.
Yameen pleaded not guilty. The US$1.1 million deposited to his bank account was dollars purchased from Siyam in a legitimate currency exchange transaction, his lawyers told the court. The defence will submit evidence to prove that Yameen handed over Dhivehi Rufiyaa to the Sun resorts owner, lawyers said.
The judge scheduled the next hearing for Sunday (7 May) to hear testimony from witnesses, including MP Siyam, whose Maldives Development Alliance party recently endorsed President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih for re-election.
In late December, Yameen was convicted in a separate trial involving the no-bid lease of Vaavu Aarah. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison. The High Court is due to hear an appeal of the guilty verdict.
On Tuesday, Home Minister Sheikh Imran Abdulla denied the opposition’s allegations about a spy camera in Yameen’s jail cell. The former president is the “inmate who has received the most services in prison” to date, he said.
The Malé City Council decided to distribute reusable “environment-friendly” bags to households in the capital. The council plans to gift packs with 25 bags each to 50,000 households at a cost of MVR1.5 million (US$97,276).
As the fee is charged at the rate of MVR2 per bag regardless of whether it is sold separately or together in bundles, the price of bundles spiked overnight (from MVR25 to MVR220 for a bundle of small bags), sparking a public outcry as bundles are most commonly purchased to use for packing household trash. Businesses – who are required to include the fee collection in their GST returns and pay it to the tax authority – also complained of losses from having to buy plastic bag bundles at much higher prices.
“Bin liners” or garbage bags sold or supplied for free by waste management service providers were exempted from the fee. But the government’s Waste Management Corporation was unprepared and only started selling bin liners from its front offices in the Greater Malé region on 27 April.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih commissioned a new offshore patrol vessel gifted by India. The C.G.S. Huravee was formally handed over during the official visit of Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. The new ship replaced the formerly largest vessel in the coastguard fleet gifted by India in April 2006.
During his three-day visit on the invitation of his Maldivian counterpart, the Indian defence minister also attended an interactive session at the military headquarters and laid the foundation stone for a naval dockyard to be built with Indian assistance.
“President Solih commended the remarkable progress achieved in the hydrography surveys being conducted with assistance from India,” according to the president’s office.
“The Defence Minister highlighted that three rounds of surveys had been conducted to support the Maldivian government’s blue economy initiative. He then stated that the charts drawn up from the surveys have now been shared with the Maldives and assured India’s assistance in the periodic update of the charts.”
The visit was “the latest in a surge of outreach toward Maldives” ahead of the presidential election on 9 September, The Diplomat reported, stressing the importance of the Maldives as “a stopover during Indian survey and exploration missions” to secure seabed minerals essential for green technologies.
The government-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital assured an inquiry into allegations that surfaced on social media about an 85-year-old woman whose fingers were amputated after she was given the wrong injection. A committee will determine whether clinical procedures were followed during her treatment, IGMH said.
According to media reports, the elderly woman passed away on Sunday.
After a first round of talks, the Maldives Reform Movement of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom sought assurances of maintaining the presidential system of government as a condition for remaining in the Maldivian Democratic Party-led coalition and backing President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih for re-election.
On Thursday, 11 senior MRM members in top government posts were reported to have left the party to endorse the president. But Heritage Minister Yumna Maumoon and Higher Education Minister Dr Ibrahim Hassan were not among them despite misgivings about the party’s opposition to the administration. The departing members were reportedly upset after MRM vice president Aminath Nadira represented the party at a press conference held by former attorney general Dr Mohamed Munavvar on the government’s alleged forfeiture of Maldivian territory.
It emerged last month that a public referendum on switching to a parliamentary system is a key condition for Speaker Mohamed Nasheed’s backing of Jumhooree Party leader Qasim Ibrahim in September’s presidential election.
Since losing the MDP’s primary to President Solih in January, Nasheed has been leading an anti-government faction within the divided ruling party, refusing to endorse the incumbent.
The president constituted the ‘Villingili Social Service Centre’ under the gender ministry “to provide temporary protection for those in need in the Malé region.” Based in the capital’s satellite island of Vilimalé, the centre previously housed a state-run children’s home, which was closed down after new facilities were opened on other islands.
The Vilimalé social service centre was part of changes made to the ministry’s mandate in a directive issued by the president.
The gender ministry was also tasked with managing social service centres for senior citizens.
“This was done to broaden the role of the elderly within the community and provide them a social support plan,” the president’s office said. “These centres will also conduct programmes to ensure their health along with organising sports and recreational activities suitable for the elderly.”
The State Electricity Company denied allegations by opposition-aligned media outlet Dhiyares about posting bills without metre readings. The claims were made after electricity bills for April soared due to record energy consumption amid the annual temperature spike.
STELCO condemned the “false and baseless” report as a “politically-motivated” attempt to incite public anger. Customers can check metre readings through the mobile app, it noted.
Maldivian Democratic Party MP Hassan Zareer was assaulted with a hammer shortly after dawn at the Habibi Café in Malé. The MP for Mathiveri underwent treatment for head injuries at the ADK hospital. The police were able to identify the five assailants from security camera footage, Zareer told the media later in the week. But the police did not reveal whether any arrests have been made.
A May Day rally took place in Malé, organised by the Maldives Trade Union Congress, a confederation of worker’s groups, together with the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives, Fishermen’s Union, Teachers’ Association of Maldives, Maldives Health Professionals Union, Port Workers Union, and the Public Interest Law Centre.
Participants marched across the capital’s main thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu, calling on the government to protect workers’ rights and to enact proposed legislation on industrial relations, which would enable collective bargaining and the functioning of unions.
Key demands from resort workers:
- Two off days a week
- Ensuring that Maldivians account for 55% of staff
- Allowing resort workers to grow beards
- Increasing the number of workers to meet international standards
- Two off days a week
- Establishing childcare facilities at hospitals
- Increasing basic pay to minimum wage of large corporations
- Reducing working hours to seven hours a day
- One off day a week
- Scrap limits on overtime pay
- One off day a week
- Provide a desk and chair for every teacher
Yellowfin tuna fishers:
- Set a minimum purchasing price
- Government-owned Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company to start buying
- Minimum pay of MVR15,000 for graduates and experienced professionals
- Ensuring overtime pay and other rights guaranteed by law
- End practice of deducting pay for staff deemed to be underperforming or not filing a set number of stories per day
New monthly salaries:
- MVR29,271 (US$1,898) without overtime pay for a senior registered nurse, up from MVR20,459.
- MVR41,976 for a specialist nurse.
- MVR41,541 average monthly pay without overtime for a senior medical officer.
- MVR66,702 for senior consultant specialists, up from MVR55,657.
- MVR87,392 for senior sub-specialist consultants, up from MVR71,649.
- MVR98,137 without overtime pay for a sub-specialist consultant with the highest grade.
Wages were also revised for psychologists, counsellors and social workers. The president assured a 35% allowance for employees in government ministries who previously did not receive the allowance. He also pledged to introduce an allowance for students on medical and dental internships. A scholarship and loan programme was announced “to equip Maldivians in areas of the health sector previously lacking Maldivian representation.”
A total of 9,838 employees would benefit from the pay hikes, which would cost MVR482 million annually, according to the president.
Providing further details at a press briefing, National Pay Commission Secretary General Dr Mohamed Faizal noted that the salary increments would benefit 3,710 local health sector employees but would not apply to expatriates.
Sub-specialist medical practitioners were offered an unspecified “exclusive service benefit” if they commit to working at one hospital. Most specialist doctors currently work at private clinics after their hospital duty shifts.
The High Court ruled that minors convicted of child sexual abuse cannot be handed lighter sentences.
The 2009 special provisions law on child sexual offenders – which introduces harsher penalties – specified five-year jail terms for offenders who were under 18 years of age. But the juvenile justice law of 2019 stipulated that minors must be handed two-thirds of the most lenient punishment mandated by criminal laws.
The High Court ruling came after the state appealed a juvenile court verdict from November 2021 that sentenced a 15-year-old found guilty of sexual assault of an underage victim to three years and two months. The court then deferred the sentence with a one-year conditional release. The appellate court ruled that penalties clearly specified in law must be applied.
Local businessman Saudhulla Ahmed, 53, died of injuries sustained in a speedboat collision near Kaafu Feydhoo Finolhu around 4:40 p.m. He passed away while undergoing treatment at the ADK hospital in Malé.
Saudhulla was the managing director of Sas E Construction.