Ibrahim Fazeel, Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL)’s General Manager, Commercial, on Wednesday called into question the validity of earlier remarks made by MACL's board and management at the Parliament Public Finance Committee meeting.
Amidst the ongoing controversy over MACL’s decision to lease a large plot of the new seaplane terminal to Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA) well below market rates, the Parliament's Public Finance Committee is currently conducting an investigation into the matter.
Earlier during the week, TMA requested a meeting with the Parliament oversight committee, during which representatives from TMA and Bain Capital presented their case to the committee. Citing signed letters on company letterhead and an unsigned draft contract, which TMA referred to as a “commitment” given by the airports company, TMA urged the committee to request MACL to honor the terms as per the aforementioned commitment—31,000 square meters of the facility at a rate of USD 10.35 for a period of 15 years.
In a subsequent committee meeting held with MACL, the airports company categorically denied any involvement—or knowledge—of their board of directors in the paperwork exchanged between the company and TMA and in any decision stated in the aforementioned letters.
"We haven't discussed this matter to the point of making an offer", said Dr Ibrahim Mahfooz, maintaining that the decisions stated in the letters were not finalised by MACL's board.
He further added that such a decision had not been documented in board meeting minutes, declaring that their general manager Fazeel, the signee in these letters, acted on his own volition, unbeknownst to the board.
However, at Wednesday’s committee meeting, Fazeel, who has been with the airports company for over 30 years now, stated that he had signed the correspondences because he was authorised to do so through a board’s resolution passed in 2017, adding that he had acted in good faith all along, and that none of the terms negotiated with TMA were offered on his own volition.
Fazeel went on to add that a binding contract with TMA was not in place, and that the terms of negotiation were communicated to TMA following internal discussions, and with knowledge of either the board or the company secretary, or in accordance with the counsel of their former Managing Director, Adil Moosa. He added that the letters in question were internally discussed, and sent out following clearance from his superiors.
Pointing to a meeting held on August 9, 2017, Fazeel stated that he had also given a presentation to the MACL board with five scenarios in which rental rates ranged from USD 39 to USD 11, following which the company secretary had informed Fazeel to propose the USD 10.35 rate to TMA.
Responding to questions regarding a letter sent to TMA on October 22, 2017 stating that the board has approved the terms, which the TMA now claims as the “commitment”, Fazeel said that although the letter was sent without the board’s approval, he was instructed to do so by the company’s Managing Director, on the basis that it was still part of the ongoing negotiations.
Responding to queries from MPs about individuals from the previous government involved in the deal, Fazeel stated that Mohamed Saeed, the former economic minister and current MP for Maavashu constituency, frequented the MACL office, adding that he himself was not privy to the meetings in which the former minister participated in.
When questioned whether Fazeel was given any instructions prior to his summoning to the Parliament, Fazeel stated that his superiors had advised him to conduct himself in a manner that would not put the board of directors’ integrity into question.
On Thursday, local media Mihaaru reported that MACL had issued a memo on Wednesday relieving Fazeel of his employment duties, and notifying him of a replacement to his post by Mohamed Hisham. The said memo was cancelled shortly on the same day.
Meanwhile, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has launched a criminal investigation into the controversial deal, on grounds that handing over the seaplane terminal to TMA under current terms would cost the state an annual loss of USD 55 million.