Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) confirmed on Sunday, of having received a case seeking to halt the lease of MACL’s $55 million seaplane terminal to Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA).
The case submitted to ACC includes details of allegations against TMA for acquiring plots below market rate and subsequently leasing to resorts for lounge development, generating an income of over $20 million (MVR 309 million).
It also includes concerns highlighted in the yet to be publicly disclosed special audit report, commissioned by the Parliament Public Finance committee, of which parts were leaked last week.
According to the leaked special audit report, if MACL were to proceed with the contested decision to handover the management of the new terminal to TMA, the former would be limited to generating an annual revenue of only $5.6 million (MVR 86 million).
However, should MACL operate the terminal itself and lease the plots at the existing market rates set for offices and lounges leased at the international terminal, the airports company is likely to record an income of $47 million (MVR 729 million) per year.
The case submitted to ACC notes that the MACL would bear a loss of $41.6 million (MVR 641 million) if they proceed with the contested handover of the seaplane terminal operations to TMA.
MACL’s decision to forgo its potential profits and proceed with the contested decision to lease the new seaplane terminal to Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA), a company with a major foreign stake and only a small minority share of one local individual, below the market rate amounts to corruption, the case emphasized.
Requesting the ACC to halt the lease, the case further highlighted that the loss to the state incurred in the MACL deal would be as significant as that of the MMPRC scandal, orchestrated by former Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb during former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s administration.
According to MACL, the new seaplane terminal to begin operations in May 2020, will continue to be privately operated by seaplane operators, with plots leased out separately to each operator. The company plans to transfer the management of the terminal back to the company gradually over a period of three years, while the company builds on its capacity and prepares for a complete take-over.
This decision, however, comes at a time when the contentious deal is under review by authorities.
The Auditor General’s Office in August was tasked, under the directive of Parliament Public Finance committee, with conducting a special audit of the deal after ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Yaugoob Abdulla raised alarm over MACL handing exclusive operation rights of the new seaplane terminal to TMA.
Champa Hussain Afeef, one of the biggest tourism tycoons and TMA's majority shareholder when Blackstone acquired the company in 2013, remains a member of TMA’s board of directors to date.
His business partner, Ibrahim Noordeen, with whom he runs Meeru Island Resort, sits on MACL’s board of directors.
Besides Noordeen, MACL’s board consists of Moosa Solih, Ibrahim Mahfooz, Mohamed Abdul Sattar, and Chairman Umar Manik (MU).
Manik is also a renowned tourism tycoon, and a shareholder of Universal Enterprises.