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ACC probes major graft allegations in Baresdhoo development project

Fathmath Shaahunaz
21 May 2019, MVT 14:28
The model for the Baresdhoo Integrated Resort Development Project. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI / MIHAARU
Fathmath Shaahunaz
21 May 2019, MVT 14:28

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is investigating graft allegations against the management of Maldives Integrated Tourism Development Corporation (MITDC), over the halted Baresdhoo Integrated Resort Development Project.

The leaders of MITDC are accused of spending the payments made by various buyers to acquire land plots from Baresdhoo, Laamu Atoll.

Applications to buy land from Baresdhoo, to develop guesthouses and hotels under the integrated resort project, were opened during the administration of former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

The previous government had planned to develop Baresdhoo for tourism with 50 guesthouses featuring 25-50 beds, and two hotels with 100 beds. The project also entailed the development of restaurants and cafes, bar, spa, theme park, theatre, golf course, botanical garden and dive centre. While development was scheduled to be completed within 18 months, no work was undertaken although the project officially commenced in 2016.

ACC launched investigations into the allegations of corruption involved in the project last January.

According to the graft watchdog, most of the buyers who acquired commercial units from Baresdhoo had made advance payments to both MITDC and Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC). The latter was notoriously involved in the biggest corruption scandal in Maldivian history, which saw MVR 1.3 billion in state funds embezzled via the company.

Amid the probes, ACC is requesting information required for the Baresdhoo investigation:

- Name and address of individual, or details of company, that paid the deposits

- Amount settled as deposit

- Date of deposit

- Details of deposit (cheque or cash)

- Any relevant documents to prove deposit settlement

ACC requested the information to be submitted in writing before June 13.

MITDC was formed in 2016 by former President Yameen's administration to manage integrated tourism projects. The managing director of the company at the time was Mohamed Shahid, who had filled several senior level posts at Housing Development Corporation (HDC).

The company currently faces several allegations of corruption. The audit report of MITDC released last January stated that the legitimacy of MITDC's expenditures and owed revenue, as well as its assets valued at over MVR 85.6 million, could not be verified.

The master plan for the Baresdhoo Integrated Resort Development Project was incomplete when MITDC sold land plots from the island. Moreover, the company's current Managing Director Mohamed Raaidh revealed that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) had not been conducted when MITDC appointed a main contractor and paid USD 975,000 (MVR 15 million) as advance payment.

ACC is also probing the case of MITDC paying MVR 2 million to develop opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)'s new office in capital Male'. MITDC claimed that the expenditure was for repairs to the company building. A board member and employee of MITDC were suspended upon ACC's orders in relation to the case.

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