John Seyfert, a United States citizen, has been in a detention facility in Hulhumalé since January with the immigration authority unable to deport him due to ongoing court cases.
The immigration department was planning to deport the 76-year-old on February 10 over the lack of a passport or valid work visa when a court order was issued to halt the deportation until the cases are concluded.
“He says he is being treated like an animal. He has not been allowed to see a dentist though he has requested multiple times,” Seyfert’s lawyer Hussain Shakeeb told the Maldives Independent.
Shakeeb also alleged Seyfert was not notified of the reason for his arrest in early January.
Seyfert has lived in the Maldives for seven years. He claims that his former business partners gave him a “phoney work visa” and that his passport was stolen from his room.
Hassan Khaleel, the immigration department’s spokesman, said Seyfert is being detained because he is an undocumented or illegal migrant.
He denied the lawyer’s allegations about the arrest, insisting that he was not notified of the reasons within 24 hours. He also stressed that US embassy officials have visited Seyfert at the detention centre.
The US embassy in Colombo has been following Seyfert’s case closely.
“The US Department of State has no higher priority than the protection of US citizens overseas. We take seriously our responsibility to assist US citizens arrested abroad and work to provide all appropriate consular assistance,” an embassy information officer told the Maldives Independent via email.
“US embassy staff continues to visit John Seyfert at the immigration centre to provide consular support services, most recently on May 8th. As requested and authorised by Mr Seyfert, the US Embassy is in regular contact with his family in the United States concerning his detention.”
Seyfert is locked in litigation with two Maldivian brothers, Abdul Haseeb Mohamed and Abdul Majeed Mohamed, over a business dispute involving a guesthouse in Hulhumalé.
Seyfert says his family invested over US$250,000 in the Le Vieux Nice Inn but was defrauded by the Maldivian owners. He fell out with the brothers when they allegedly refused to pay him back.
In June 2016, the civil court ordered Haseeb to pay Seyfert US$42,000 – considerably less than the quarter of a million dollars Seyfert says he and his family invested.
The brothers appealed the civil court judgment. On May 15, the high court reduced the amount owed to US$39,000, which it said was established through bank records of the payment transaction.
The money was transferred by Seyfert’s family in the US and he maintains that he personally handed over the rest.
Seyfert says he invested in Le Vieux Nice Inn on the agreement that brothers Haseeb and Mujeeb would repay him once the guesthouse started generating an income. Seyfert would then use the money to build himself a retirement home on land that the brothers owned on the island of Fulidhoo in Vaavu Atoll.
Relations between Seyfert and the brothers soured a few months after he made the investment.
In a Facebook group run by Seyfert, entitled ‘John Questions-Answers’, Seyfert claimed that the brothers were supposed to repay his investment within a year.
Mujeeb meanwhile sued Seyfert at the Hulhumalé magistrate court last year over alleged non-payment of rent. The magistrate court ruled against Seyfert despite the lack of a written agreement.
But the high court later overturned the ruling upon appeal.
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Source URL: Maldives Independent