The Edition


Police accuse RIX of exploiting expats, human trafficking violations

Ahmed Aiham
06 July 2020, MVT 18:49
Maldives Police Service accused parliamentary representative for Shaviyani Atoll's Milandhoo constituency, Ali Riza's RIX Company Pvt Ltd of human trafficking. PHOTO: MIHAARU FILES
Ahmed Aiham
06 July 2020, MVT 18:49

Maldives Police Service, on Monday, accused RIX Company Pvt Ltd of human trafficking, as well as exploiting its foreign workers. The company is headed by MP Ali Riza, the parliamentary representative for Shaviyani Atoll's Milandhoo constituency.

Over 200 expatriate workers partook in protests over their employer's failure to pay six months of salary, which culminated in the holding of 13 Maldivian staff hostage at Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll - an island being developed as a resort property.

Referring to the investigation, led by the police department tasked with human trafficking issues, the authority's spokesperson declared that RIX had violated worker's rights and failed to provide employment fees on behalf of its foreign employees.

Moreover, police noted that the company had sourced trafficked expatriates from various islands and coerced employees to continue working with their wages withheld for long periods of time.

They also accused RIX of terminating workers for protesting over the injustices, revealing that certain employees were expelled from the island and sent to the capital city Male'.

Prior to the hostage situation, RIX employees staged a silent protest on May 16, demanding full payment and clearance to leave Maldives and return to their respective countries.

RIX Maldives claimed that it was unable to pay salaries after Seal Maldives' failure to make payments for four months from January 2020 onwards.

According to RIX, agreements signed in November and December 2019 between the two companies mandated Seal Maldives to cover salaries and living costs, based on the number of contracted workers.

RIX stated that Seal Maldives only credited a fraction of the total MVR 12 million owed upon completion of the project, and transferred accusations of human trafficking and forcing the foreign labourers to continue working without pay, over to the latter.

The allegations were denied by Seal Maldives, which asserted that it had paid a total of MVR 21,773,338 to RIX Maldives upon completion of the contracted project, although the initial agreement stipulated a payment of MVR 12,332,765. The surplus was attributed to the cost of funding additional work.

Seal Maldives stated that there was no reason obstructing RIX from making payroll, and accused the company of neglect.

This issue comes amid renewed concerns from rights groups as well as the general public, over the continued exploitation of expatriate workers in Maldives. Violations reported include that of including human trafficking, withholding of wages, poor living conditions, and other human rights violations.

In response to the Bodufinolhu case, left-wing political movement 'Navaanavai' demanded that the Prosecutor General's Office drop charges against the 19 people arrested over the hostage situation, given the gross mistreatment of the employees.