Maldives Customs Service has said that liquor was confiscated from Villa Group’s resorts as per court order and criminal procedure laws.
Customs, on Sunday, released a statement in response to allegations that the liquor was being confiscated against laws.
It said that the operation was conducted to seize all liquor being distributed to resorts “unlawfully”, and that it is being done according to the court order issued by the Criminal Court, and as per the powers granted to Customs under criminal procedure laws.
Customs said that liquor and pork are imported and distributed under strict rules by the Ministry of Economic Development and that anything violating this is a crime, according to the ‘Prohibited and Restricted items for import’. Noting that according to the law, alcohol and pork can only be given to foreigners who are registered to a resort, Customs said that distributing it elsewhere “is illegal”.
The statement also refuted claims that the raid conducted by Customs, with the assistance of Maldives Police Service (MPS) was traumatizing the guests in the resorts, despite photos and videos showing otherwise.
Customs said that the operation is being conducted after discussions and as peacefully as possible, adding that they were only searching areas where the liquor is stored. It highlighted that prior to the search, officers had informed resort’s management of the areas to be searched, and why it was being searched.
Noting that they had not searched any areas where tourists stayed and that they did not use any force in taking the items from the resort, Customs added that they had not confiscated all the liquor in the resorts.
“Customs officers seized the liquor that are suspected to have been taken there unlawfully,” said Customs.
While Customs claims that the operation was conducted as per laws, Villa Group’s attorneys maintain that authorities had acted unlawfully by seizing the alcohol as the search warrant did not permit confiscation of property.
They argue that companies that receive alcohol from Customs are also allowed to distribute to other companies which have liquor licenses.
Customs and police officers first raided Villa Group’s five resorts on Wednesday night, claiming that liquor licensed to one of its resorts, from the Customs Bonded Warehouse was being distributed to other resorts associated with it. The five resorts searched are; Sun Island Resort, Paradise Island Resort, Holiday Island Resort, Royal Island Resort and Fun Island Resort.
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