Ex-Maldivian Tourism Minister Ali Waheed arrested in UK

Former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed arrives at Criminal Court on January 24, 2021. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Former Tourism Minister Ali Waheed – on trial for multiple charges of sexual violence – has been arrested in the United Kingdom. 

His arrest comes shortly before he was scheduled to hold a virtual press conference to address the charges against him. 

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

He is on trial for seven charges of sexual violence; 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. 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 last June.

Once in the UK, Ali Waheed filed a motion asking the Criminal Court to allow him to attend his hearings remotely. The motion was allowed by the court despite the objections of the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The Prosecutor General’s Office appealed the decision with the High Court, citing 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. 

However, the appeal was rejected by the High Court, and the Prosecutor General's Office headed to the Supreme Court.  

The Supreme Court sentenced Ali Waheed to two months and 12 days in prison for contempt of court on August 11, after he failed to appear at the appeal hearing.

However, Maldives Correctional Service was unable to enforce the prison sentence due to Ali Waheed being outside Maldives, and requested assistance from the police. 

The police said earlier this August that they were seeking assistance from both Interpol and the British police to extradite Ali Waheed. 

However, it is unclear if Ali Waheed’s arrest this Wednesday was by Interpol or British police. Maldives police said they have yet to be informed of Ali Waheed’s arrest.