The Supreme Court, on Thursday, ordered the state and Airport Investment Maldives (AIMS) to pay USD 13 million to World Link Travels (WLT).
WLT, of which Villa Group is a shareholder, submitted its appeal over denial of access to three islands that were contracted to it by AIMS in 2007 under a resort development project. AIMS was collectively formed by several government institutions.
The Supreme Court's verdict allocates a one-month period for AIMS and the state to hand over more than USD 13 million in finance cost to WLT. The apex court also backed the order issued by the Civil Court and the High Court which stipulated the return of USD 16.9 million to WLT.
Despite this, the court stated that there was insufficient evidence for the settlement of a figure higher than USD 13 million to WLT, which was incurred in travel cost and as opportunity cost.
The verdict detailed that WLT has fulfilled its responsibilities of making an advance payment and creating a joint venture company even though the islands had not been handed over.
The Supreme Court also declined WLT's request to gain back the legal fee, attributing the decision to the lack of a formal agreement regarding the matter between WLT and AIMs.
According to the verdict, AIMS was unable to hand over the islands to WLT due to the government. It was revealed that the state had not granted approval for the handover requested by AIMS, and that the government had nullified the contract it had with the company in violation to its terms.
The Supreme Court highlighted the stipulation in the law on contracts, that states that one partner can be ordered to compensate for the losses caused by the other violating agreement terms and stated that WLT should be compensated.
While both courts ordered the state to settle the amount WLT paid as an advance, it was maintained that the state should not be held responsible for losses of USD 112 million that were sustained by WLT.
Ownership of the five islands previously leased to Villa Group's owner, Qasim Ibrahim, were withdrawn from him in connection to the WLT matter. According to the state, the settlement agreement made between Villa Group and the state stipulated a zero-claim accord. Therefore, with the notion that these claims made by WLT were unlawful and against the settlement agreement, the state withdrew all islands from Villa Group in 2015.
However, the Supreme Court has issued an order, stating that the withdrawal of ownership of these islands is an unlawful act, as well as recognizing the continuation of ownership of these islands to Villa Group and by extension, to WLT.