Maldives police arrest ex-vice president who fled to India

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Maldives police said Saturday that they arrested a former vice president who had sought asylum in India after fleeing the Indian Ocean archipelago nation to avoid questioning over the alleged embezzlement of state funds and were bringing him back to the Maldives.

Former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb fled the Maldives and arrived by boat at southern India’s Tuticorin port on Thursday. Indian authorities said they did not allow him to enter the country because he did not possess valid documents and he was not entering through a designated entry point.

On Saturday, Maldives police confirmed that Adeeb had been arrested. They said on Twitter that he “is being transported to Male under our custody.” Male is the capital of the Maldives.

A Maldives official said the boat carrying Adeeb would reach the Maldives on Sunday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

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The Press Trust of India news agency reported that Adeeb was sent back to the Maldives after questioning. Indian officials declined to comment immediately on sending Adeeb back.

An international legal team appearing for Adeeb said Friday that he had sought the protection of India and had initiated the process of claiming asylum.

Maldives police previously said that Adeeb was supposed to be questioned this past Wednesday over the alleged embezzlement of state funds, but that he did not report and instead fled the country.

Adeeb had his passport confiscated by a court order due to pending court cases, according to police. He had recently been freed from a 33-year jail sentence over corruption and terrorism related to an alleged assassination attempt on former President Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

He was arrested and jailed in 2016 after a blast on Yameen’s speedboat. Yameen’s wife was slightly injured in the blast.

FBI officials assisting in the probe said they did not trace any explosives in the boat and Adeeb’s jailing was criticized as being politically motivated.

After Yameen’s defeat in last year’s presidential election, Maldivian courts set aside the convictions against Adeeb and ordered a fresh investigation. However, a court imposed a travel ban because the state had appealed Adeeb’s release.

Once a trusted ally and deputy to Yameen, Adeeb is now a key state witness in the corruption cases against his former leader.

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