President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has revealed that his former deputy, Ahmed Adheeb, had initially sold Emboodhoo Lagoon for resort development only for USD 3 million, upon the discovery of which the president had intervened and raised the amount to USD 40 million.
Emboodhoo Lagoon, which lies near capital Male City, is being developed as an integrated resort project 'Crossroads', by the Thai real estate giant Singha Estate. The USD 680 million project will see the development of a number of luxury resorts with a total of 1,300 suites.
The president made the declaration during the presidential debate hosted by Maldives National University (MNU) on Monday night. The sole participant after opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih declined the debate invitation, President Yameen shared details of how the Emboodhoo Lagoon project was awarded in response to a question posed by the debate's moderator Dr. Ibrahim Hassan.
President Yameen declared that he had halted the project when it surfaced that Adheeb had awarded Emboodhoo Lagoon for only USD 3 million. The president added that he had also frozen all transactions with pending acquisition fees, a decision that was approved by his Cabinet.
According to the president, the senior attorneys of Singha Estate had subsequently met with him at the President's Office.
"But I told them that this president would not sell [Emboodhoo Lagoon] for that price (USD 3 million). I explained that I'd planned to reclaim and sell 10 resorts in Emboodhoo Lagoon within the first five years of my government. Even with USD 4 million as acquisition cost per resort, the lowest price [overall] would have to be USD 40 million."
President Yameen stated that while Singha Estate's attorneys had first objected and left, they agreed to the president's terms a few weeks later.
"[Singha Estate] paid USD 30 million as acquisition cost and USD 10 million as CSR. With a lagoon that was first sold for only USD 3 million, I was able to bring in USD 40 million into the state treasury," he said.
The president went on to proclaim that Emboodhoo Lagoon, which is designed under 20 different resort concepts, would create 11,500 jobs.
President Yameen had detailed how Emboodhoo Lagoon was handed over to Singha Estate, after the debate moderator mentioned the concerns raised by environmental experts, that the reclamation of Emboodhoo Lagoon and the mangrove lake of Kulhudhuffushi, Haa Dhaal Atoll, would result in inconceivable damages to the environment.
In response, the president demanded, "What was the damage? First of all, I reclaimed less than half of Kulhudhuffhushi's lake. What was in that area? Clean water? Or fish and other aquatic life? That area was destroyed by waste. Where are the environmental experts? Why do they speak of the damage caused to Kulhudhuffushi lake [due to reclamation], but not of the damage caused by waste?"
President Yameen stated that he had stopped the pollution of Kulhudhuffushi's lake and introduced Waste Management Corporation (WAMCO)'s services to the island. He added that bringing development would encourage people against wrongdoings such as littering.