Maldives Customs Service on Wednesday night commenced raids on all five resorts operated under opposition Jumhoory Party leader Qasim Ibrahim’s company Villa Hotels.
With a court order and in conjunction with the police, Customs began raids on Paradise Island Resort, Sun Island Resort, Royal Island Resort, Holiday Island Resort and Fun Island Resort.
The reason for the raid on Sun Island, as stated in the warrant, was to gather evidence for an allegation that alcoholic beverages, which were released by Customs’ bonded warehouse under the name of Royal Island’s management, had been illegally taken to the other resorts as well.
Under the warrant, Customs has been authorized to inspect the resorts' documents pertaining to the case as well as the physical stock of alcohol and pork products, computerized systems that monitor the stocks, storage devices and other related equipment.
The warrant issued on Tuesday night granted Customs a period of 18 hours to conduct the raids.
Villa Hotel’s group general manager Gaisar Naseem has spoken out, insisting that the company has done nothing illegal. Speaking to Mihaaru, Gaisar revealed that the raiding team comprised of four officials of Customs, two police officers, and a representative of Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA).
Declaring that the unprecedented raids on all five resorts came as a sudden shock, he accused, “This is a low act orchestrated by the government to cause political harm to this company’s chairman Qasim Ibrahim. The company has not committed any unlawful acts.”
Stating that they had obeyed the court order and allowed the raid team to inspect the resorts’ storage, and alcohol and pork stocks, Gaisar asserted that the resorts were legally permitted to sell the products in question.
He added that the abrupt raids caused much alarm amongst the guests at the resorts, while the employees were exceedingly anxious.
Qasim Ibrahim, who was recently convicted to three years in jail over bribery charges, is currently in Germany seeking medical aid for a heart condition. Meanwhile, MIRA has filed lawsuits seeking a staggering amount of money as unpaid taxes and other fees from various firms of Qasim Ibrahim. It had initially sued five of Qasim’s companies claiming a total MVR 2.5 billion owed to the state, the cases of which are already underway at court. MIRA had again sued a company of Qasim for another MVR 75 million.