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Strada Pvt Ltd illicitly enriched: ACC

Ahmed Aiham
20 May 2019, MVT 19:31
The Newport View restaurant and the bridge viewing platform. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI / MIHAARU
Ahmed Aiham
20 May 2019, MVT 19:31

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)'s investigative report, on Sunday, revealed that Strada Pvt Ltd, the holding company of the Newport dining outlets, was illicitly enriched via the former administration of Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Strada was leased to construct a Sinamale Bridge-viewing platform, a food outlet, a parking lot and LED wall for digital advertising on September 22, 2016.

The initial agreement between then Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure and Strada allocated a period of three years.

Although Yameen's government later extended the duration of the contract to eight years, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih nullified the agreement.

The graft watchdog noted that Strada failed to adhere to the company's proposal.

The report highlighted that no action was taken against Strada for failing to settle rent for the land. However, as stipulated in the agreement, failure to pay rent may result in annulment of the contract.

Strada owes MVR 1.4 million to the state over unpaid rent and fines. The company last paid its rent on October, 2017.

The state has filed a case at the Civil Court in order to recover the money.

Furthermore, ACC reported that Strada was awarded MVR 2 million as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The company is yet to repay the sum.

Approximately 10,000 square feet of land was allocated for the development of the southeastern coastal area, which additionally includes the establishment of a football ground, a cinema, an indoor play area for kids and planting vegetation.

Moreover, ACC stated that Strada developed an outlet of the Taiwanese global teahouse chain 'Chatime' on the premises, outside of the agreement, following approval by the ministry. The outlet was later demolished.

In light of the outlet's destruction, the previous government decided to pay MVR 14.5 million in damages to Strada. However, ACC's probe declared it unjust to have been awarded the sum outside of a court of law.

The company's then Managing Director and shareholder, Zahid Rameez, was a former council member of both Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and People's National Congress (PNC).

After President Solih came into power, Zahid resigned and handed over the position to his wife, both of whom are sole shareholders of the company.

Previously, the Presidential Commission on Investigation of Murders and Enforced Disappearances summoned Zahid over a series of menacing tweets he made in 2011 and 2012, including death threats, aimed at prominent blogger Yameen Rasheed, who was found stabbed in the stairwell of his apartment in 2017.

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