by a correspondent
The wolf has now bared its
fangs. As a last resort, Maumoon has been forced to take open help from
the criminal nexus that he had carefully kept hidden from the Maldivian
public for over a quarter of a century. Yes, Maumoon has finally
revealed the real power behind his criminal rule –Koli Ali Manik. Who
is he, many young Maldivians will ask?
Manik burst into international
notoriety in 1975 when Bombay police busted his drug and gold smuggling
operation in India’s commercial capital. Bailed out by his crime
partner of the time, President Nasir, Manik promptly jumped bail and
shifted his operations to Singapore. He kept a low profile there till
his present crime partnership with Maumoon was struck in 1978.
Manik organized a money
laundering operation for Gayoom. All money that Gayoom could steal from
government budget was transported in suitcases to Manik’s Singapore
based office, euphemistically named ‘Maldives Government Trading Center’
(recall how Al Capone described himself as a ‘used furniture
Soon the duo decided to
diversify their operations. Gayoom passed a Presidential decree that
all goods imported by the government will have to be bought from Ali
Manik’s company. It is estimated that this money laundering operation
which began with a modest 10 million dollars per annum in 1979 peaked at
$ 100 million in 1995. It has since shown a declining trend. This has
nothing to do with a sudden pang of conscience on their part. Rather,
Gayoom’s own brother Yaameen had taken over part of the operation.
During the past decade, the duo
had been forced to be even more secretive. This was due to more
awareness in the Maldives about their nefarious activities. This
followed the revelations of Ismail Sodiq, a ‘whistle blower’, who
earlier worked as Manik’s assistant in the money laundering operation.
Following the revelations, Sodiq was jailed without trial for several
months. His escape from Gayoom’s clutches came when the latter was
forced to send him abroad for a life threatening kidney disease. After
that his old father, a long serving government servant in Gayoom’s own
office, was held unsuccessfully as ransom for Sodiq’s return. Now Sodiq
lives as an exile in the US.
What happens to the laundered
money? It finances property that Gayoom and his family buy abroad. It
also pays for the education of Gayoom’s relatives and friends in London
and Australia. All these are shown to the public as ‘philanthropy’ from
Manik. In the last decade, when Gayoom’s children had grown up, a small
part of the hidden cache had been siphoned back to Maldives to buy
resorts for the children and their spouses.
About 1998, Ali manik also
diversified into other areas. His experience with money laundering had
equipped him well to enter into the ‘hawala’ market that linked the
Middle East with Singapore and Malaysia. Groups in the Arab world
found him a convenient route to send funds to their cells in these two
Due to these shady things,
Gayoom had carefully concealed his friendship with the underworld don.
In fact, very few people in Maldives know that Manik is a minister in
Gayoom’s government. This appointment had been a necessity to give
Manik a diplomatic passport. Manik had been increasingly finding it
difficult to venture out of Singapore. He is wanted by the police in
about a dozen countries for insurance fraud and labor law crimes (In at
least 2 countries, including US, cases of ‘slave labor have been filed
against him’. With the red passport Manik manages to avoid arrest in
According to political observers
bringing in Manik to manage the crisis situation shows that Gayoom has
no more cards left. It is ‘show’ time in his high stake gamble. What
he does not realize is that this is a ‘winner takes all’ situation. If
Manik wins, why should he share the booty with Gayoom?