Supreme Court: Suspected major felons must have passports held upon getting charged

Supreme Court. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

The Supreme Court ruled on Sunday that defendants must be barred from traveling overseas the moment they are charged with a major felony.

The top court issued the ruling while making its judgement in the appeal of the decision to lift a travel ban order on SeaLife Global’s managing director Ahmed Moosa Mohamed (Ammaty) – who is on trial for defrauding over 200 tenants out of millions in booking fees for a planned apartment complex in suburban Hulhumale’.

Justice Husnu Al Suood, who was on the three-member bench which heard the appeal, said that formal charges were “serious”, and that if a defendant in a felony case were to flee overseas, it would paralyze the criminal justice system and obstruct the establishment of justice.

“The state therefore must take steps to prevent this from happening,” he said.

“It is the responsibility of Maldives Immigration to blacklist and prevent defendants from leaving the country the moment a charge declared on Article 22 of the Penal Code is submitted against them to a court, and the court tells Maldives Immigration to bar them from traveling overseas.”

Suood said he believes Maldives must maintain the practice of having the travel ban against defendants in major felony cases in place until the appeal process ends.

He said that such a defendant must be allowed to travel overseas for medical care only if a doctor testifies in court that the medical treatment in question is unavailable from the Maldives, and after getting the opinion of the Prosecutor General’s Office on the matter, and after setting the condition that the defendant must return after treatment.

“The court must not allow defendants charged with major felonies to travel overseas for none-medical purposes in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code, if the Prosecutor General does not object to it,” he said.

Justice Mahaz Ali agreed with Suood’s judgement, and it received majority consensus.

The Supreme Court on Sunday overturned the decision to lift the travel ban on Ammaty.