Maldivian arrested in Lanka for attempting to smuggle money identified as top opposition official

Former Islamic minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari (R). MIHAARU FILE PHOTO

Former Islamic minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari (R). MIHAARU FILE PHOTO

The suspect arrested from neighbouring Sri Lanka’s main airport on Saturday attempting to smuggle thousands of dollars has been identified as former Islamic minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari.

Lanka media reports earlier Sunday said a 53 year old Maldivian was nabbed by airport police at the Bandaranaike International Airport when he attempted to smuggle USD45,000 to Maldives hidden inside his travelling bag.

According to Sri Lanka customs regulation, any person may take out from Sri Lanka a total of legally acquired foreign currency in any form up to USD10,000 without any declaration. However, if the sum in currency notes exceeds USD5,000, the entirety of the sum must also be declared.

Dr Majeed who served as the Islamic minister during former president Mohamed Nasheed’s administration was arrested at a time when top opposition officials including Nasheed are reportedly in Sri Lanka hatching plans to oust incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom from office.

Nasheed who has been granted asylum in the UK after he was allowed to leave for medical treatment in an internationally brokered deal in January has united the main opposition parties and stepped up efforts to remove Yameen from office.

Nasheed had been sentenced last March on a terrorism charge over the arrest and subsequent detention of a sitting Judge during his presidency, in a trial widely criticized for lack of due process.

Opposition had said, former vice president Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed who had recently been granted political refugee status by Britain would also join the talks in Sri Lanka.

Jameel had fled to the UK last July days before he was impeached in a controversial vote which was alleged to have been orchestrated by his eventual successor Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Ghafoor who himself was impeached following a blast aboard the presidential speedboat.

The newly formed opposition alliance had said it will seek to oust incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and form an interim government to ensure free and fair elections scheduled in 2018.

The MUO brings together the Maldivian Democratic Party, the Adhaalath Party, two of Yameen’s former deputies and his former defence minister.

Government has intensified its crackdown on top opposition figures after BBC quoted sources saying the opposition plans to move against the president “within weeks.”

According to the BBC report, details of what is being planned remain obscure but the government has described it as a “formal attempt at ‘legally’ overthrowing the government”.

A Maldives court on Tuesday issued a formal warrant for the arrest of Nasheed to coincide with his visit to Sri Lanka.

According to the police, the arrest warrant was issued in conjunction with investigations, pursuant to a 2011 Audit Report.

Nasheed and six senior officials of his administration have been ordered to repay government funds they had allegedly misused or face lawsuits.

The Maldives Correctional Service is also seeking to have Nasheed brought back to serve a remainder of his 13 year sentence from which he was initially granted extraordinary medical leave.

In addition to Nasheed, an arrest warrant has also been issued against former vice president and leader of the new opposition coalition Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.

The arrest warrant was issued against Dr Jameel who now heads the opposition coalition over the forged warrant to arrest the president.

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