Jumhoory Party leader Qasim Ibrahim’s Villa Group stated at the Supreme Court on Thursday that the company did not violate its contracts with the government to lease three islands and two lagoons.The company accused the government of seizing the islands due to political reasons.
When the government decided to cancel the lease agreements and seized the islands and lagoons in 2015, Villa had filed a lawsuit which was ruled in favor of the company by the lower court. However, the High Court had overturned the ruling in favor of the government, which was later appealed at the Supreme Court by Villa.
In Thursday’s hearing at the Supreme Court, Villa Group’s lawyer Ahmed Muizzu stated that the firm did not violate the settlement agreement but in turn accused the government of violating the terms of the agreement. He also accused the government of seizing the properties with a political motive.
According to lawyer Muizzu, the then tourism minister Ahmed Adheeb had notified Villa Group that the government was seizing their properties via a letter. The letter accused Villa Group of filing a lawsuit against the government, which was a violation of the terms of the prior settlement agreement between the parties.
The government’s claim was that, in violation of the settlement, a company with shares held by Villa, World Link Travels (WLT), had sued the state for USD 127 million. The lawsuit filed by WLT claims damages arising after a company with shares held by the state, Airport Investments Maldives (AIMS), failed to lease certain islands to WLT after the agreement was signed.
Muizz had insisted in his argument that the lawsuit filed by WLT had no connection with the settlement agreement signed between Villa and the government. He added that no party involved in the settlement agreement had filed a suit against the state.
Muizz also said that as per the agreement, if an issue arose about the lease of the islands and lagoons, the matter should be resolved through mediation before going to court.
After the High Court’s verdict, Villa is encountering several challenges in providing services required by its staff and in importing goods as some government authorities had ceased all services to the company.
MIRA has filed a claim to recover the USD 188 million (MVR 2.9 billion) accrued in rent and fines of these islands and lagoons, while the case regarding seizing of the properties is ongoing in the Supreme Court.