MALE: The Maldivian government has categorically denied the opposition’s charge that the North Korea sanctions breaking vessel Xin Yuan 18 carries a Maldivian registration number and the Maldivian firm involved is linked to President Abdulla Yameen’s family.

However, the government has started an inquiry into how the said vessel happened to be carrying the Maldivian flag when it was not authorized to do so. Severe punitive action is being promised.

A government statement said: “The Government of Maldives assures that the Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number 455910000 associated with the vessel named Xin Yuan 18 was never registered in the country. The MMSI is an internationally recognized 9-digit identification number which is used to identify maritime communication and vessels.”

“While the MMSI range for the Maldives is 455XXXXXX, there is no record of the MMSI number 455910000 ever being registered in the Maldives,” the government said in a statement.

“The Communications Authority of Maldives (CAM) administers the registration of all communication equipment on maritime vessels, as well as the issuance of all call signs and numbers. CAM only issues MMSI numbers to vessels registered by the Maldives Transport Authority.”

“The Government of Maldives also confirms that the vessel ‘Xin Yuan 18’ is not registered in the Maldives,” the government’s statement said.

“Further we condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the use of our National Flag in a manner so as to tarnish the good standing and reputation of our nation and that of our people.”

“The Maldivian authorities do not allow flag of convenience to foreign owned vessels to operate outside Maldivian waters,” the statement added.

“The Government of Maldives gives high priority to the implementation of all resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, including the Resolutions on Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea).”

Maldives defense ministry began a serious probe into the Xin Yuan 18 affair.

Earlier, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) led by Mohamed Nasheed issued a statement that oil tanker Xin Yuan 18 “appears to be linked to linked to Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen’s family.”

The MDP went on to say: “Despite denials by the Maldivian Government, independent shipping registers show that the oil tanker ‘Xin Yuan 18’ is registered in the Maldives, with the Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) 455123170. The vessel also carries the Maldivian flag.”??

“Documents viewed by the opposition show that the Xin Yuan 18 is owned by Ha Fa Trade International, a company based in Hong Kong.”

“A Maldivian company called Green Box, which is owned by Colonel Ziyad, applied for a mortgage at the Bank of Maldives worth US $4.5 million. The Xin Yuan 18, along with property belonging to Adheel Jaleel, was used as collateral for the mortgage,” the NDP statement said.

“Adheel Jaleel is President Yameen’s nephew. Green Box’s owner, Colonel Ziyad, is a former Colonel in the MNDF, and a close confidant of General Shiyam, the Chief of the Defense Forces.” ?

“The Bank of Maldives’ board reportedly approved the mortgage. Adheel later withdrew his property as collateral from the mortgage, so the Bank of Maldives did not disperse the funds.”

“The exact nature of the relationship between Ha Fa Trade International and Green Box remains unclear. “

“According to Green Box’s website, one of the company’s main focuses is the “importing, bunkering, resale and re-exporting of fuel and related products.” ?

“Green Box’s company address is: 1 Floor, H Gadhamoo Building, Boduthakurufaanu Magu, Male’. ??

“The Maldivian Democratic Party is extremely concerned that President Yameen has been caught up, once again, in an illegal scheme to smuggle oil in violation of UN sanctions. ??In the early 2000s, President Yameen was head of an international smuggling ring that provided oil to the Burmese military junta, in breach of UN sanctions.” ?

“Grant Thornton, an international investigative firm, was hired by President Nasheed’s administration to investigate the oil smuggling to Burma,” the MDP release called.

“A case against Yameen for fraud was lodged in a court in Singapore. However, days before the case was due to be heard in 2012, President Nasheed was deposed in a coup d’etat. The Grant Thornton investigation was terminated by the administration that replaced President Nasheed.”

Japan had charged that the ship “Xin Huan 18”, flying the Maldivian flag, was one of the four ships that have defied international sanctions and transferred illegal goods to North Korean vessels.

A Japanese government statement said: “At midnight on February 24, 2018, a P-3C aircraft of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (Fleet Air Wing 1 P-3C : Kanoya) found that Chon Ma San, North Korean-flagged tanker, was lying alongside Xin Yuan 18, Maldivian-flagged tanker, on the high sea (around 250 km eastern offshore of Shanghai ) in the East China Sea.”

“Judging from the fact that the two vessels lay alongside each other with their lights turned on at night, both vessels could have been engaged in some type of activity. Following a comprehensive assessment, the Government of Japan strongly suspects that they conducted ship-to-ship transfers banned by UNSCR.”

“In February 23, 2018, the US Government had designated Chon Ma San as a vessel of sanction target against North Korea. Government of Japan confirmed that Chon Ma San erased its vessel name.”

Japan notified the Security Council Committee of this incident and shared information with related countries. Japan also expressed its interest to the Xin Yuan 18-related countries.

So far, Japan has been the only country to patrol the waters of the Yellow Sea between China and the Korean peninsula and the neighboring East China Sea.

There are global sanctions against North Korea which prohibit the transfer of goods to Pyongyang.

So far, the illegal transfers have been of crude oil or refined petroleum products.