The government has begun releasing the islands leased to Villa Group, after Supreme Court issued a verdict stating the agreements were unlawfully annulled by the previous administration.
In a statement released on Monday, tourism ministry stated that it was working with relevant authorities to execute the Supreme Court’s verdict. The statement concluded that all related decisions will be taken with the counsel of the President’s Office, Attorney General’s Office, Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of National Planning and Infrastructure.
The Supreme Court on April 18, 2018 ruled in favour of Villa Group, saying the government had unlawfully revoked agreements for three islands and two lagoons.
In 2015, the government annulled lease agreements for three islands; Thaa Elaa, Raa Maanenfushi, Gaaf Dhaal Gazeera, and two lagoons; Kaafu Maadhiggarufalhu and Kaafu Bolidhuffarufalhu. During February of the same year, the government had informed Villa Group that the islands have been repossessed by the State after annulling the agreement.
The previous administration had annulled the settlement agreement after World Link Travels (WLT) – of which Villa is a 70 percent stakeholder – filed a lawsuit against the State for USD 127 million. However, according to the settlement agreement Villa could not sue the government, which was violated when WLT sued the government, the State’s defense stated during the Supreme Court hearing at the time.
In response, Villa Group stated that there was no connection between the lawsuit made by WLT and the agreement made by Villa Group with former President Abdulla Yameen’s government. The lawsuit by WLT was based on the agreement made with Airport Investment Maldives (AIMS) – a company in which the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s government was a stakeholder, which did not lease the islands after making the agreement. However, the islands and lagoons mentioned in the settlement agreement were solely leased to Villa Group, regarding which Villa did not sue the government on any account, Villa said in court.
Villa also noted that the settlement agreement clearly states that both parties shall go into discussion to solve issues of dispute. But rather, the islands and lagoons were repossessed by the State without informing Villa of any such matter.
Amidst the court case, Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) had also sued Villa for USD 188 million (MVR 2.9 billion). MIRA withdrew the lawsuit following the Supreme Court's verdict.