A Maltese company is reportedly in negotiations to set up a controversial “private armoury” with a 200-strong contingent in the Maldives, to provide security for ships travelling in the Indian Ocean.

According to several reports in the Maldives press, maritime and aviation logistics firm Marshall Consultants Group plans to set up the armoury and operate armed maritime vessels from the remote northern island of Uligamu, under the supervision of the Maldives army.

Social media photo reportedly showing the plot on Uligamu where the “armoury” is to be constructed, according to Maldives newspaper Haveeru.Social media photo reportedly showing the plot on Uligamu where the “armoury” is to be constructed, according to Maldives newspaper Haveeru.

The reports are based on marketing material sent by the company, which is registered in Malta and has offices in Vittoriosa.

When contacted, a spokesman for Marshall Consultants initially branded the media reports as “absolutely false” but would not elaborate. When pressed to confirm whether the company was setting up a private armoury in the Maldives, the spokesman refused to comment. “It is not in our commercial interest to discuss details of our business with the press,” he said.

The company previously confirmed the plans in comments to the Maldives Independent, where it said it was ready to begin services as soon as it obtained the permissions. The Maldives government has officially denied that it is entertaining any deal involving arms.

Private maritime security is a lucrative trade in the region, with a vast number of vessels employing armed guards to protect themselves from Somali pirates.

Marshall Consultants has a subsidiary in the Maldives, Safety at Sea Logistics Ltd, which provides private security and support for oil and gas research and freight industries, according to its website.

Despite its reputation as an idyllic holiday destination, the Maldives has a long history of military dictatorship and a dismal human rights record under the present regime.

The possibility of a private armoury has raised concerns as the military is the only entity legally allowed to bear arms inside the country.

An informed source in the Maldives told the Times of Malta the army had been requested to supervise a similar project in the past, but had said it lacked the resources to do so.

The source said the issue had “almost certainly” been discussed in the country’s National Security Council, but that it now appeared likely the deal would be scuppered due to recent political turmoil in the country.

One of the top-level officials seen as supporters of the project has been sacked in the last few weeks while another has been arrested in relation to an assassination attempt on the country’s president.

The issue has also been linked in the Maldives media to a visit to Malta last August by then vice-president Ahmed Adeeb, who has since also been arrested over the attempted assassination.

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