Ministry of Tourism submitted a case to Maldives Police Service over unlawfully hosting tourists for profit at Fushidhiggaa, Alif Dhaalu Atoll, an island currently on trial over an issue of ownership.
Speaking at a press conference held at the Tourism Ministry on Saturday night, Minister Ali Waheed stated that Fushidhiggaa was currently under Police authority following the case submitted by the ministry.
Officials of Tourism Ministry visited Fushidhiggaa with a Police team following rumours that tourists were being taken to the island without the knowledge of any government authorities.
According to the minister, only two foreign workers were present on the island when they arrived. Neither of them were carrying work permits.
The minister further noted that the state will hold discussions on a course of action regarding the island.
Ministry of Tourism alleges Ahmed Khaleel of illegally profiting from Fushidhiggaa.
Khaleel proposed to develop a resort on the island in 2011 under the CSR project held by the then-government. Although the proposal was approved at the time, the state later refused to sign the official agreement documents.
Khaleel then filed a case against the state at Civil Court, which concluded in his favour. However, the state appealed the case at High Court and won. Supreme Court also upheld the High Court's verdict.
"There is no agreement between Ahmed Khaleel and the state. Ahmed Khaleel does not have a licence to provide offer services for tourists at the island. Therefore, [he] cannot do illegal things", Ali Waheed said.
Noting that no parties can operate resorts without the legal documents, the minister confirmed that the situation was controlled within 24 hours of being brought to the ministry's attention, without any negligence from the ministry's side.
Ali Waheed stated that monitoring every island was not a feasible option for the ministry, adding that such incidents can be prevented by granting more powers to island councils through the Decentralisation Act.
Fushidhiggaa was leased to two companies during the Maldives Marketing and Public relations Corporation (MMPRC) scandal that cost the state MVR 3.7 billion in embezzled funds in former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's administration.
Ali Waheed confirmed that the two foreign companies, Maldiviana and Hospitality Management Holding (HMH), already made payments to the state to develop Fushidhiggaa as a resort.
Although HMH agreed for a total payment for USD 3 million, the company paid USD 1.3 million so far. However, Maldiviana paid the USD 600,000 requested by the state at the time within the given duration.
All these transactions took place while former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb was filling the position of Tourism Minister.
"We cannot decide which party has the rightful claim to the island. We will conduct proper research into the matter with the Attorney General's (AG) Office and other relevant institutions", said Ali Waheed.
The Tourism Minister assured that a decision will be made in the best interest of the people.