Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) refused to comment on the issue of freezing the company bank accounts of two local businessmen, opposition Jumhoory Party’s leader Qasim Ibrahim and former parliamentarian Abdulla Jabir.
MIRA froze the accounts of Qasim Ibrahim’s Villa Shipping and Trading Company on Wednesday and Abdulla Jabir’s Yacht Tours earlier this week. An official of the authority responded to Mihaaru’s inquiry that MIRA cannot release information on tax payers under their policy, stating that relevant information will be communicated directly to the tax payers involved.
However, MIRA has on occasion forwarded statements to media regarding court verdicts against businesses.
Villa Shipping’s accounts were frozen over USD 18 million the company owes to the state as land rent, interest and penalty of Thaa atoll Elaa island. Elaa was leased to Villa for resort development before the government later took back the island. Following a lawsuit which Villa won at the lower court last year, the state had appealed the case and the High Court overturned the Civil Court’s verdict last Tuesday, ruling in favour of the government.
The order to freeze Villa’s accounts comes amidst an impending motion of no confidence against parliamentary speaker Abdulla Maseeh, which was initiated by opposition political parties including Jumhoory Party. Notably, Qasim Ibrahim had predicted three days prior that a misfortune seemed imminent upon his company.
He had said that “the accounts might be frozen over Villa’s USD 100 million case”, referring to the five islands that were leased to Villa for which the company has been ordered to pay USD 100 million as lease and penalty fees. Qasim had also expressed concern that such a development might halt the salaries of Villa’s workforce which numbers around 5,000.
Meanwhile, the accounts of Abdulla Jabir’s Yacht Tours are frozen for not paying the land rents and penalty fees of the islands Alidhoo, Beenaafushi and Kandaalifinolhu in Haa Alif atoll. However, Jabir has said that settling the payments would be difficult at the moment as the cases of all three islands are still at court.
Jailed Former President Mohamed Nasheed on Wednesday night harshly criticised freezing the accounts of these two companies. In a tweet, he declared that MIRA, which was founded during his regime to take taxes, was not created for political purposes. Saying that the government’s tendency to freeze company accounts of businessmen whenever the state is in a tight spot indicates that MIRA has been politicised, he vowed to hold MIRA’s Commissioner General Yazeed Mohamed accountable.