Maldives pres involved in N. Korea sanctions breach, Nasheed alleges

Self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed on Saturday alleged that incumbent Maldives president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom was "clearly involved" vessel which had been flying the Maldives flag suspected of transferring goods to a North Korean tanker in defiance of United Nations (UN) Security Council last month.

The Japanese government late last month had published further evidence of North Korean vessels engaged in ship-to-ship (STS) transfers on high seas which is prohibited under UN Security Council sanctions.

The North Korean-flagged tanker 'Chon Ma San', designated by the United States as a sanction target, was spotted by a Japanese surveillance plane with the Maldivian-flagged tanker 'Xin Yuan 18' some 250 km (156 miles) east of Shanghai, the Japanese foreign ministry had said in a statement.

Maldives police had arrested a local businessman now identified as Abdulla Fahmy on March 5 in connection to the incident.

Police have now accused the suspect of funding a plot to overthrow the government, forging documents of the transport authority and creating a fake email account of a top transport authority official to communicate with the international maritime organization.

Fahmy has also been accused of creating call signs for a vessel not registered in the Maldives and using the country's flag on an unregistered vessel.

However, Nasheed claimed that Fahmy was the "fall guy" and the government was now desperately trying to cover up the incident.

"Prez Yameen clearly involved in a scheme to evade UN sanctions on North Korea. Fahmy is the fall guy and Maldives Govt presently working overtime to cover up their illegal operation," Nasheed said on Twitter.

Fahmy's arrest came days after the Maldives authorities had insisted that the tanker was not a vessel registered in the Maldives.

The government had also said Maldives does not grant open ship registration to sail outside the country in international waters under the Maldivian flag.

North Korea last year conducted dozens of missile launches and its sixth and largest nuclear test as it pursues its goal of developing a nuclear armed missile capable of reaching the United States, triggering deeper U.N. Security Council sanctions.

Washington meanwhile has slapped sanctions on dozens more companies and vessels linked to North Korea’s shipping trade and urged the United Nations to blacklist a list of entities, a move it said was aimed at shutting down North Korea’s illicit maritime smuggling activities to obtain oil and sell coal.