Monday 2nd Oct 2023
Dhivehi Edition
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Drug Trafficking

Maldivian Woman Arrested In Cochin on Drug Trafficking Charges Is Innocent: Family

Aminath Rasheed, 58, is from Eydhafushi (Baa Atoll). For the past 10 years, she has made a living off of importing merchandise from Sri Lanka, India, and Bangkok to sell in the Maldives.
To cut costs, she got into the practice of traveling abroad by herself.
On one of her usual business trips to India on February 15, news of her arrest at Cochin International Airport sent shockwaves through her family.
According to several Indian newspapers, India's Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) had stated that Rasheeda had been arrested in connection to the attempted smuggling of 3.9 kilograms of opium out of India into the Maldives on 11 December. The NCIB claimed that the confiscated opium had been found in commercial cargo that had been addressed to Rasheeda.
Two men who live in Kerala named Areef and Ali had been initially accused of having sent the opium stashed in the merchandise. They had claimed that they were falsely accused, and have since been let go.
Rasheeda's family disputes the NCB's claims. Speaking with The Maldives Journal, one of Rasheeda's family-members said that they had first heard of her arrest from another Maldivian national at the airport who had witnessed it happen. The family said that they did not know what was going on, or why she was being arrested.
"When mother was arrested, she asked some Maldivian person she saw at the airport to get in touch with her family to inform us that she'd been arrested, and that she didn't know what was going on", said a representative from her family.
Having not heard any news of Rasheeda, her family had called the embassy and other places until they found the phone number of a guard at the facility where she was being held. When they managed to contact her later in the day, they found that she was in a poor state. The family said that they only found out that she was being arrested in connection to a drug charges because of the involvement of the NCB.
"Mother is psychologically fragile. She has high blood pressure. And she'd get really scared if something like that were to happen to her", said one of her family members. "She'd surely never do something like that. When we got in touch with her, the first thing we asked her was if she had taken someone else's luggage, if someone else had given her anything. She said no."
According to Rasheeda's family, she had been arrested by request of the Mumbai Police; and the reason for her arrest were unknown at the time. Nothing suspicious had been found after her phone and belongings had been checked.
Her family said that although she knew a few words, she could not speak English. Her family advised her not to say anything without the presence of a lawyer, and to request for a translator.
The NCB came to interrogate Rasheeda the following day. The family had hired a lawyer for her. Although once the lawyer arrived, they were told that a translator and a lawyer had already been appointed for Rasheeda. The lawyer was denied access.
"We thought that the government had appointed some people for her", said her family. "After eight hours, we were able to contact her. Only then did we realise that she had been arrested in connection to suspicious packages. This is a case from last December. This wasn't an incident that we had taken so seriously".
According to the family, the suspicious packages had not been addressed to her, and she not even touched them.
"After the interrogation, we asked mother how she knew what the interrogators said", said the family. "Was a translator there? Was a lawyer there? She said no. We got nervous, and we asked her who was there. And she said that it was a friend of hers. She said that the interrogators came with him to question her. A man named Areef".
"When mother buys merchandise from India, she uses Areef's company, Areef Impex, for its freight forwarding services. She always gets her merchandise through the company, so she's very friendly with him", said her family. "Areef speaks Dhivehi very fluently".
That Areef's company had allegedly attempted to smuggle out the opium and that he himself was also a suspect in the case was unknown to the family at the time.
"At the time, we thought that Areef was such a good man. That mother got free because he was there to translate for her. Areef reportedly told mother that he had told the interrogators that the packages did not belong to her. She calmed down after that", said the family.
According to the family, Rasheeda had not accepted the packages and returned to the Maldives without them. The packages were sent by a man named Loot.
"Mother said that she did not know anyone named Loot", said the family. "That she would not accept any packages that she knew nothing about. This is the extent of her 'involvement' in that case. While she was preparing to return home, they had come to her on an auto with a set of packages. The packages had Areef Impex on them. Neither mother's name nor address were on the packages", said the family.
The family accuse Areef of telling the NCB that the packages belonged to Rasheeda. Rasheeda is scheduled to appear in court in Mumbai.
"After thanking Areef, he told her that she has to go to Mumbai. When asked why, he said that the case was in court in Mumbai. We told Areef to take good care of mother. At the time, we still didn't know that Areef was a suspect. When mother told us that Areef wasn't going to court, we asked her why. She said that Areef's part was done, and that he doesn't have to come anymore. It was really at that point that we realised what was going on", said the family.
The hearing for the case was scheduled at 2pm today, and Rasheeda's family claim that she had been framed.