The High Court on Tuesday overturned the Civil Court’s verdict that the government had seized Thaa atoll Elaa island from Villa Shipping and Trading Company Pvt Ltd unlawfully.
Villa had filed a lawsuit against the state after the government took back Elaa which was awarded to the company for resort development. Last year, the lower court had ruled in favour of Villa, which is owned by opposition Jumhoory Party’s leader Qasim Ibrahim.
In its verdict, the Civil Court had stated that the “Amended and Restated Lease Agreement” between Villa and the Ministry of Tourism had been terminated based on the annulment of the settlement agreement which was signed on December 12, 2013. The court stated that other contracts cannot be acted upon based on a settlement agreement's status and, thus, the government’s decision to take back the island was null.
However, the High Court overturned the Civil Court’s verdict, ruling in favour of the state.
Elaa is one of the five islands leased to Villa for which the company has been ordered to pay USD 100 million (MVR 1.5 billion) as lease and penalty fees.