With his legs and arms chained, the man laid bleeding on the floor. It was a Maldivian man in his 30s. If you look closer, you could see a chain around his neck as well. With swollen limbs and dripping in blood, he laid there helpless.
At first, I refused to believe the man in the photograph was a Maldivian. However, the intelligence officer provided more information and I was pushed into a rude awakening.
The man was not in jail. He was a “human collateral” given to secure an illegal drug shipment. The shipment in question was busted by the Maldivian Police. As a result, the man was beaten as a punishment. The only way to get him out of the chains was to make up for the loss.
“This is how they do it. They don’t use money or gold to secure deals anymore. They use life. Humans. Even with the slightest of errors, the human held as collateral has to take the punishment. If the deal doesn’t go as planned and if they fail to pay for it, they will beat him to death.” said the intel officer.
The middle-aged man in the picture was held as collateral in a deal to traffick 50 kilograms of drug into the Maldives via an Iranian boat. The boat was found drifting on Maldivian waters in May 2019. The police seized more than 50 kilos of drugs from the boat and arrested seven Iranian crew members.
The man in the picture was paying the price for this bust. The Maldivian Police have been trying to find out his whereabouts with no luck. Human collateral has been involved in recent drug busts in the Maldives. It might have been going on for a long time, however, it came to light very recently.
Another human collateral, another bust!
A year after the Iranian boat was caught on Maldivian waters, another boat was captured on October 1, 2020. This operation was carried out based on an intelligence report. The smuggling was an attempt by a group of locals in collaboration with a trafficking network from Pakistan.
The police arrested 16 people and seized 98 kilos of drugs, including heroin, MDMA, and amphetamines.
This was led by a local drug lord – Abdulla Ibrahim (Abucha). According to the police intel, Abucha’s network put a man as collateral for this shipment as well. The person is currently in Pakistan – where exactly, dead or alive, no one knows.
“He is from Addu City. He left for Pakistan months before the shipment. A deal was made to hand him over once the deal was through,” said the officer.
Commissioner of Police, Mohamed Hameed also confirmed these in a press conference.
“The importer sends a local person to the supplier as collateral until the payment transaction is complete. We noticed this pattern in our recent narcotics operations. We have seen photo and videos too,” said Hameed.
Targets on loners with no family!
After a person gets entangled in a web of drugs, trafficking, and other crimes, they are often abandoned by their family. They get kicked out of their homes and are forced to find refuge elsewhere. According to sources, they find refuge in drug lords – who provide them with food and shelter. And later, they get sent on “missions” for the bosses.
Some people who were in this business or know how these networks operate, confirm that the collateral given to the Iranian network was not the first.
“They send these people on small vacations. Tickets, accommodation, and pocket money are provided. Then they are taken care of by some agent in a foreign country. Their passports will be confiscated. They won’t be harmed as long as things go according to the plan,” said a former trafficker.
He said that most of the time, these “guarantors” have no idea what they are getting into until it’s too late.
“These kids have no family or they have no relationship with their family. They send these kids on purpose. Who is going to come looking for them? Who is going to report them missing? No one!” he said.
The guarantor in the picture had no family. The man sent to Pakistan was kicked out and had been living with Abucha for a long time. Therefore, no missing reports have been filed with the police. The family came to know about him when the police informed the family after the drug bust.