RIX Maldives Pvt Ltd informed Maldives Police Service that the company cannot enforce Thulhaadhoo’s Magistrate Court’s temporary order, which was issued late Wednesday, to assume responsibility for the expatriate workers stranded on Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll and extradite them from the island immediately.
In explanation, legal representatives of RIX stated that the company’s name is “R.I.X.”, with each letter pronounced separately.
As the court order had documented the company’s name phonetically as “Riz” in local Dhivehi language, the company’s lawyers claimed that RIX did not need to implement an order that was issued for a non-existent company.
In 2019, Seal Maldives contracted the construction work of Bodufinolhu, which is being developed as a luxury resort, to RIX, a company owned by the parliamentary representative for Shaviyani Atoll’s Milandhoo constituency, Ali Riza.
Seal Maldives lodged a case with the magistrate court after 203 expatriate workers protested against six months of unpaid wages and barred 13 local staff from leaving the island on July 2. Maldives Police Service arrested 19 individuals during the operation to de-escalate the hostage situation.
Local media outlet Mihaaru reported that 179 foreign workers currently remain on Bodufinolhu.
In addition to extraditing the workers, RIX was also instructed to remove any of its capital or property from the island, in cooperation with the Maldives Police Service.
According to Law Craft, the law firm representing RIX, the court hearing was held virtually via video conference and connection was lost in the middle of the hearing due to connection issues.
Due to this, the firm claimed that the court issued the order without granting the defendant an opportunity to speak on the six procedural points raised by RIX, after debating on one point only.
Local media reported that the aforementioned point was regarding the company’s misidentification, to which, the court had delivered a verdict.
As per the court’s verdict, there was no basis to argue the point, as the company had phonetically written its name as “Riz Private Limited” in the local language on the Director’s Board Resolution, which was submitted to the court along with a letter on July 8, 2020.
The court further stated that there was no room to accept this as a procedural point, since RIX had failed to raise the issue when given the chance during the hearing held on July 8.
Mihaaru also reported that Ali Riza had signed the agreement contract for completing the construction work on Bodufinolhu as the Managing Director of “Riz Private Limited”, documented phonetically in the local language.
Moreover, the order issued by the Thulhaadhoo Magistrate Court includes the company’s registry number next to the name.
However, Law Craft claimed that the court rejected the procedural points submitted by RIX because the court might have to drop the case.
In addition, the law firm accused the court of favouring Seal Maldives due to “veiled reasons”.
According to the Thulhaadhoo Court, documentation proved that RIX had brought the employees to Bodufinolhu while mutually signed agreements granted Seal Maldives the right to order the removal of labourers from the island.
The court noted that the developer had sent a letter to RIX on May 23, requesting the contractor to vacate the employees. After expatriate workers staged a protest on May 16 and caused considerable damage to Seal Maldives’ property, the developer provided RIX until June 31 to remove the labourers from the island to prevent further losses.
Following the contractor’s failure to comply with Seal Maldives’ instruction, the most recent protest and hostage situation on July 2 resulted in additional damages.
Highlighting that Seal Maldives sustained irreversible damages during the incident, the magistrate court noted that any damages to the developer’s property caused by the contractor’s workers must be compensated by the latter, as per the agreements.
The police had formally accused RIX Company Pvt Ltd of human trafficking and the exploitation of foreign workers on July 6.
The company was also accused of terminating labourers that protested over unpaid wages on May 16 and sending them to the capital city of Male’.
Meanwhile, RIX Maldives’ legal team has asserted that the company did not hold responsibility for any foreign workers on Bodufinolhu except for 14 of the individuals currently on the island.
Furthermore, RIX has maintained its initial assertions that Seal Maldives was legally required to pay salaries as per agreements between the two companies, and that RIX was only assigned a management role concerning the workers. The contractor claimed that delays in crediting salaries were caused by Seal Maldives’ failure to make payments.
The developer countered with a statement noting that it had made payments in addition to those mandated by agreements, and accused RIX of neglect, stating that there was no reason preventing the contractor from paying its workers. Seal Maldives also asserted that RIX was mandated to cover insurance, healthcare and Visa application costs in addition to monthly salaries.
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