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Govt foils money laundering network's attempt to smuggle out MVR 2.5 mln

Mariyam Malsa
29 September 2019, MVT 16:29
Abu Hanif pictured at the airport. PHOTO: MIHAARU
Mariyam Malsa
29 September 2019, MVT 16:29

The government prevented a large-scale money laundering network, allegedly managed by recently deported Bangladeshi national Abu Hanif, from smuggling MVR 2.5 million out of Maldives in currency notes of dollars and euros.

Hanif was apprehended at Velana International Airport (VIA) on September 13 while attempting to leave the country after Maldives Immigration launched an operation to tackle the issue of undocumented migrants.

At the time of his deportation, social media rumours alleged that certain businesses in which Abu Hanif held shares were guilty of money laundering among other crimes.

One of Hanif's businesses involved enabling Bangladeshi workers employed in the country to bypass remittance taxes. Since 2016, the government has imposed a three percent remittance tax on money sent to foreign countries by individuals employed in Maldives.

The state decision to deport Hanif came under public criticism as no investigations were launched into the extensive money laundering network that Hanif is widely accused of spearheading.

Ongoing investigation

Maldives Customs Service recently confirmed that a local and a foreigner were halted while attempting to smuggle a large quantity of money out of Maldives and reported to the police.

According to reliable sources of local media outlet Mihaaru, one of the two individuals halted twice for smuggling money was Hanif's sponsor. The implicated foreigner allegedly provided assistance in smuggling money across borders and had travelled to Maldives more than 80 times during the past year.

According to the police spokesperson, an Indian citizen was also halted attempting to leave Maldives with USD 60,000 ( MVR 925,200) and EUR 5,400 (MVR 91,044).

Furthermore, a local 43-year-old man was apprehended on September 23 trying to leave the country with USD 4,600 (MVR 70,932) and EUR 37,500 (MVR 594,950).

The spokesperson disclosed that the two cases were being investigated separately. No arrests have been made concerning either case.

In response to the question posed by Mihaaru on whether the cases were linked to Hanif, the official stated that the police were not currently investigating any case concerning the latter individual.

Additionally, Immigration has not lodged any cases concerning the allegations against Hanif.

An Immigration official stated that no formal cases against Hanif were received prior to his deportation for violating the conditions of his visa. The man entered Maldives in 2014 as a carpenter for Biyaadhoo Island Resort.

However, Immigration did not officially deny any of the allegations against the Bangladeshi national circulating on social media.

Withheld licences

During the previous week, Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) temporarily withdrew the remittance licence of Bandaha Financials Pvt Ltd and the money changer licence issued to Bandaha Cafe'.

As per MMA's announcement, the permits were withheld in relation to an ongoing investigation.

Abu Hanif is reportedly a shareholder of both the businesses along with locals. Singapore is reportedly one of the main outlets for the funds.

Several foreigners are allegedly involved in illegally recruiting workers and running businesses including guesthouses, hotels and shops in violation of regulations. On occasion, the names of such individuals are publicized on social media.

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