Maldives police seek Interpol red notice for Ali Waheed

Former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed speaks to press outside Maldives Police Service headquarters on July 19, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Maldives police have initiated efforts to seek an Interpol red notice for former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed - who fled to the United Kingdom in February, despite being on trial on charges of sexual violence against multiple women in Maldives.   

A police spokesperson said on Wednesday evening that the police were involved in completing formalities to request an Interpol red notice against him. 

The move comes after the Criminal Court issued a bench warrant for Ali Waheed’s arrest on Tuesday, ordering authorities to present him before the court in police custody. 

The Criminal Court announced on Sunday that it would penalize State Minister for Sports Assad Ali (Adubarey), who signed as surety – securing Ali Waheed permission to travel overseas, if he failed to show up at court within 72 hours. The 72 hours expired on Wednesday, but the court has yet to announce any action against Adubarey. 

Ali Waheed was dismissed as Tourism Minister on July 9, 2020, after allegations that he sexually assaulted and harassed multiple female employees at the Tourism Ministry was brought to the attention of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. He was initially asked to voluntarily resign, but was dismissed after he refused.

He has been pressed with seven charges; attempted rape, inflicting a sexual, indecent exposure, sexual assault, attempt to cause sexual assault, and two counts of unlawful sexual contact.

He initially had a travel ban order against him, but the Criminal Court temporarily released his passport and allowed him to travel overseas for medical treatment on February 9, despite requests by the Prosecutor General's Office not to release his passport and grant him temporary travel papers instead.  He promptly left for the UK.

Ali Waheed failed to return to Maldives despite the fact that the four-month period granted by the court for his travel overseas expired in June.

Prosecutor General's Office had submitted a motion to seize Ali Waheed's passport in June, but Criminal Court Judge Hassan Saeed rejected the motion in July, citing lack of reason for the seizure of the passport.

The Prosecutor General's Office appealed the decision with the High Court.

Once in the UK, Ali Waheed had filed a motion asking the Criminal Court to allow him to attend his hearings remotely. The motion was allowed by Judge Hassan Saeed despite the objections of the Prosecutor General’s Office, which argued that holding a hearing via video conferencing in a criminal trial with the defendant in a location outside of Maldives’ jurisdiction is in violation of Criminal Procedure Code, and that the court will not have the jurisdiction to penalize the defendant, even if he acts in contempt of the court. 

The decision was contested by the Prosecutor General’s Office with the High Court, which dismissed the appeal in July, citing lack of judicial and legal basis to hear the appeal.

The Prosecutor General’s Office filed a subsequent appeal with the Supreme Court, which issued an interim order instructing the Criminal Court not to hold any remote hearings in the case while Ali Waheed remains overseas until the court makes a decision earlier this week.

The Supreme Court sentenced Ali Waheed to two months and 12 days in prison for contempt of court in August after he failed to appear at the appeal hearing.

He was also recently detained by British authorities for overstaying his visa.