Amidst the recent controversy, the Maldives government has decided to grant opposition Jumhoory Party leader Qasim Ibrahim’s resorts a temporary permit to import alcohol and pork products.
The licenses to import alcohol and pork products, which were issued to Qasim Ibrahim’s Villa Shipping and Trading Company and the resorts operated under the Villa umbrella, had been revoked last year March by the economic ministry. Since then, Royal Island Resort, which is operated under Qasim Ibrahim’s Island Travel and Trade Pvt Ltd, was the only one permitted to import alcohol and pork.
However, Maldives Customs Service in conjunction with the police had commenced raids on all the resorts last Thursday, claiming that alcoholic beverages and pork products, issued from Customs’ bonded warehouse to Royal Island Resort, had been distributed illegally to the other resorts as well. While Customs had seized some of the alcohol from Fun Island Resort’s storage, the economic ministry decided to withhold Royal Island Resort’s permit to import pork and alcohol as well.
The development had sparked much controversy, with members of the opposition calling the raids a targeted attack on Qasim Ibrahim’s resorts, while resort employees and the residents of Alif Dhaal atoll Maamigili island, the former constituency of Qasim, had held protests.
Amidst the outcry, the tourism ministry declared in a statement Monday that it has requested the economic ministry to issue a temporary permit of 14 days to the resorts operated under the subsidiaries of Qasim Ibrahim’s conglomerate Villa Group. The reason for the permit, according to the tourism ministry, is to provide the necessary services to the tourists and guests currently vacationing at the resorts.
Villa’s resorts had previously said that they were full booked with many of their guests on all-inclusive packages, which include provision of alcoholic beverages and pork products. Concerns have also been raised that such raids being conducted at the peak of the Maldives’ tourism season would negatively impact the tourism industry as a whole.
In its statement Monday, the tourism ministry acknowledged the vitality of the tourism sector for the nation’s economy and stressed the importance of providing satisfactory services to tourists.
“The government’s decision [to grant a temporary permit] was also based on discussions held with Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) and various other stakeholders,” added the ministry.
The statement further highlighted that several companies of Villa Group are being sued by Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) over failure to settle lease payments and other fees for various islands and lagoons that were leased to the companies for tourism development. MIRA has also repeatedly ordered Villa’s resorts to settle long lists of unpaid Green Tax and Tourism Goods and Services Tax (TGST) owed to the state.
Noting that operating resorts without settling taxes and fees is a violation of contracts and laws, the tourism ministry stated that the government withholds certain services to companies that fail to settle payments, which by extension could affect the services provided to tourists. Thus, the tourism ministry called on operators of the tourism sector to adhere to laws and regulations, which it declared is the only permanent solution to such issues.
The ministry further assured that the government would always work to ensure trust with foreign investors and maintain the Maldives as one of the best destinations in the world.
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Source URL: Mihaaru-News