1 March 2018

A Japanese foreign ministry statement said that a Maldives-flagged vessel, Xin Yuan 18, was used to illegally transfer goods from a North Korean-flagged tanker, “Chon Ma San”, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.  As evidence Japanese Defence sources released the above picture which shows Chon Ma San and Xin Yuan 18 lying alongside each other, some 250 km away from Shanghai in the East China Sea. Government of Japan confirmed that Chon Ma San had erased its vessel name.

The Korean vessel was designated by U.S. as a sanctions target. The Maldives government denied that Xin Yuan 18 was of Maldivian origin and said, “no such vessel is registered in the country”. The Asahi Shimbun reported.

The vessel’s call sign of 8QQ2238 and Maritime Mobile Service Identity(MMSI) of 455123170 point to Maldives. HA FA TRADE INTERNATIONAL is the registered owner of the vessel. The company’s registered address is in Hong Kong. There is no information about the nature of goods that were transferred from the North Korean tanker.  North Korea’s smuggling activities are aimed at obtaining oil and selling coal.

This type of corrupt activity is nothing new to Maldives. In early 2000s, it was alleged that Maldives received subsidised oil from OPEC nations through the State Trading Organisation’s (STO) branch in Singapore and sold it through an entity called ‘Mocom Trading’ to the Burmese military junta, at a black-market premium. President Yameen who was then the chairman of STO. The profits did not go to STO but were pocketed by the perpetrator and his accomplices.

In a separate incident, The Maldives detained and deported a group of four international lawyers who travelled to the islands to study the impact of emergency rule, Law Asia, said on Wednesday. Law Asia is a regional lawyers’ association. It said that it sent its members in response to an open invitation the government issued two days after President Abdulla Yameen imposed a state of emergency. It also said, “By such action, the government of Maldives deprived itself of the benefit of an independent and impartial assessment by a fact-finding team not sponsored by any individuals, parties or organizations in the Maldives”. Saudi Gazette reported.  It is understandable that a legal organisation is concerned when a Chief Justice and a Supreme Court Judge are kept in jail without due process.

Separately, Yameen’s niece Dunya Maumoon resigned late Tuesday as health minister. She had been under pressure to resign since Yameen ordered the arrest of her father, ex-president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.