Maldives police investigate major heroin find

COLOMBO, March 27, 2008 (AFP) – Maldives police have started a probe into the source of 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of heroin found smuggled into the tiny island capital of Male, officials said Thursday. Police found the drugs at a two-storey apartment on Wednesday night and said the haul was the biggest illegal drug find in South Asia’s most expensive tourist destination.

“Two Maldivians have been arrested and investigations are still going on. It’s our biggest drug bust, worth about 5.5 million rufiyaas (4.4 million dollars),” police spokesman Ahmed Shiyam told AFP by telephone from Male.

Experts say narcotics are easily smuggled into the Maldives which has 1,192 islands clustered into 20 atolls that straddle international sea lanes.

There are an estimated 12,000 drug users in the Maldives, with the island’s narcotics bureau reporting cases of children as young as nine experimenting with heroin.

The problem flourishes despite a growing tourism industry which has made the Maldives, with a population of 369,000 mainly Sunni Muslims, the richest nation in South Asia, where per capita income is 3,400 dollars.

Drug smuggling carries a life sentence of 25 years. .