Back in Feb 2018, an aircraft of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force reported the UN Security Council of the suspected illegal transfer of goods from a tanker with a Maldivian flag to a North Korean vessel in violation of international sanctions.
The aircraft spotted Maldivian-flagged tanker Xin Juan 18 lying alongside a North Korean-flagged in East China sea on February 24, 2018. At that time, UNSC had imposed sanctions on North Korea in response to the nuclear and missile tests.
The tales of Xin Juan 18- A Maldivian flagged tanker:
When the news first made headlines, the government and the authorities quickly tried to sideline it.
The President’s office published statements denying the vessel was from Maldives and condemned the use of the Maldivian flag in a manner to tarnish the good standing and reputation of the country and its people.
To back its statement, the President’s office said the MMSI number 455910000 – the nine digits used to identify vessels in radio communications – of the Xin Yuan 18 was not registered in the Maldives.
— The President's Office (@presidencymv) March 1, 2018
Was the tanker really camouflaging using the flag?
The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) MMSI number for the Xin Yuan 18 is different.
You got the MMSI number wrong. See below from @IMOHQ website.
(MMSI) number 455910000 was never associated with the vessel named ‘Xin Yuan 18’
The number you meant was 455123170.
You're welcome. I am sure it was an honest mistake. pic.twitter.com/36Nikg1a7m
— Will Jordan (@willjordan) March 1, 2018
If we go through this twitter thread, we can see that the President’s Office of Abdulla Yameen had mixed two different numbers and without adequate investigation declared the vessel not registered in Maldives.
The Xin Yuan 18 is registered under the flag of the Maldives with the MMSI number 455123170, according to the IMO’s global integrated shipping information system.
You are saying MMSI never registered in the Maldives and gives a wrong number. The number you are giving is 455910000 n u says never registered. But IMO website number is different, the IMO says MMSI number for the tanker in question is 455123170.
— Akram Kamaludeen (@Akramkdeen) March 1, 2018
State Minister Abdul Kamaludeen made a very valid statement on the post saying that any number starting with ‘455’ are Maldive’s Maritime Identification digits. So the question of doubt doesn’t even arise in this case.
After the dispute was raised, the International Maritime Organization updated the details. Data on IMO can only be updated/changed when state members and government reaches out to them asking for a change in details. The IMO now lists the Xin Yuan 18 with an unknown flag.
Ha Fa Trade International:
Before the update, Xi Yuan 18’s registered owner under IMO was Ha Fa Trade international. A company registered in Hong Kong. Its director is Tang Yun Hui, who resides in China.
It was previously known as Victory Prima and registered under the Indonesian flag since 1998. In November 2017 the tanker’s name changed to Xin Yuan 18 and was registered under the flag of Niue, an island country in the south Pacific Ocean. Its registered flag was changed to the Maldives a month later.
Ha Fa Trade International Co., is registered to an address in Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district. But the company can’t be found there. Instead, the cluttered 23rd-floor office belongs to an agency that helps businesses register with the authorities.
MDP makes serious rounds of allegation:
Then opposition MDP made accusations that the ship was connected to the nephew of Yameen and to the retired MNDF colonel Mohamed Ziyad, the owner of Green Box, a shipping company registered in the Maldives.
MDP alleged that former colonel was conducting illegal fuel sales to the UN-sanctioned North Korean regime and that President Abdulla Yameen was connected to the scheme.
The Secrets of Green Box and the illegal dealings within:
MDP, with the help from Defence Intelligence Service of the MNDF compiled and released a documented file.
According to the leaked documents, the owner of Xin Yuan 18, Longline International Ship Management used another ship in January of 2018 carrying a Maldivian flag. The ship named Prospery used the call sign of a Maldivian-registered oil tanker, Transfuel 11. Transfuel 11 is owned by Green Box.
Green Box & BML conflict, Yameen The Mediator:
“The bank confirmed that Green Box applied in 2016 to the bank to obtain loans to purchase five oil tankers and that President Yameen pressured bank board members to approve the loan. Despite Yameen’s pressure, the bank turned down the application,” the bank said.
The MDP also alleged that missing fuel from Green Box tankers pointed towards illegal oil sales.
“In 2017, Green Box’s Transfuel 9 loaded 1,300 tons of oil from abroad but only declared 600 tons to Maldives Customs. In July 2017, Transfuel 11 (formerly Puteri Aur) loaded 400 tons of oil but only declared 100 tons to Maldives Customs,” the report said.
Speaker and Former President Nasheed knew all along:
Nasheed in his tweet in 2018 said, “It’s concerning, but unsurprising, to learn Prez Yameen is again breaking UN sanctions, this time with North Korea. He’s getting Maldives flagged ships to transfer cargo to North Korean ships on the high seas. In 1990s, Prez Yameen did the same with Burmese junta.”
It’s concerning, but unsurprising, to learn Prez Yameen is again breaking UN sanctions, this time with North Korea. He’s getting Maldives flagged ships to transfer cargo to North Korean ships on the high seas. In 1990s, Prez Yameen did the same with Burmese junta.
— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) February 28, 2018
In 2011 Yameen was suspiciously involved in a scheme, worth US$800 million, of black market oil sales to the then UN-sanctioned Burmese junta as published by India’s The Week.
The report led to an investigation by Singaporean authorities and a Maldivian inquiry by a presidential commission through a UK-based forensic accountancy firm, Grant Thornton.
Abdulla Yameen and his legacy in corruption, a foundation since early 2000s:
Yes, besides MMPRC, Yameen has also been involved in a various cases leading to corruption, even before he became the President.
While he was still working alongside Maumoon Abdul Gayoom as the Chairman of Maldives State Trading Organization, it is reported that the brothers carried out hefty illegal scam deals.
“The Maldives is given a special, cheap allocation of oil by OPEC because of the cartel’s preferential treatment for 100 percent Sunni Muslim nations, so the tiny island state under [former President] Gayoom would assume a far larger allocation of oil than the residents of the country needed.”
Shipments destined for the Maldives would never arrive, and bills of lading recording receipt of cargo were missing.
Why isn’t Yameen arrested and tried for all his corruption crimes?
It is but a fact that even with so many evidence available he has always slipped away. Will Maldivians ever get the answers they deserve? Will justice be served? Will Yameen ever be held responsible for stealing from the state coffers?