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Villa Group goes to court after booze raids

Photo: Mihaaru

A leading resort firm in the Maldives has gone to court after authorities decided to confiscate alcohol at four of its properties following raids targeting businesses of its owner, Gasim Ibrahim, a key opposition leader.

Jumhooree Party leader Ibrahim is currently in Germany after fleeing the Maldives on medical leave while serving a three-year jail term for bribery.

He is also the founder of Villa Group, which owns and manages resorts in the Maldives. The alcohol at his Fun Island resort was confiscated Saturday night following raids on five of his properties.

Alcohol at the other resorts would also be confiscated, customs officials informed the group, prompting it to seek legal action from the Criminal Court.

Lawyer Hussein Shameem said a case was filed under the criminal procedures law which allows individuals and companies to seek recovery of property seized unlawfully.

The group maintains authorities acted unlawfully by seizing the alcohol as the search warrant did not permit confiscation of property.

“Customs officials said it [alcohol] was brought in lawfully. They said these things can be transferred from one resort to the other,” Qaisar Naseem, general manager of Villa Hotels and Resorts said.

The license to bring pork and alcohol to four of the resorts was cancelled in March last year. But the license for Royal Island, created under a company named Travel and Trade, was in place and used to obtain alcohol and pork for all five properties.

The remaining license was also revoked Sunday over allegations the property was acting unlawfully by transferring alcohol and pork from one resort to the others.

The licenses were revoked under the tax body’s enforcement policy, and for violating an oath not to transfer the alcohol and pork, customs said.

But lawyer Masthoor Husnee told Mihaaru the items were brought in after the completion of due procedures and it was “a false accusation”.

Villa group also expressed concern as the confiscation of alcohol would affect business and the tourism industry, thereby forcing thousands of people out of jobs.

The Association of Travel Agents said the events would have a negative impact on resorts and the safari industry, while the Maldives Association for Travel Agents and Tour Operators said “this is not a good message to tourists”.

The opposition also expressed concern over the negative impact.

“This has created discord and created a negative image for tourists. This will not only affect the tourism industry, but will affect the whole economy,” the religious Adhaalath party said.

The opposition also accused customs of being accomplice to carrying out the ‘dirty acts‘ of the government.

The resort raids led to protests in the capital city Malé, Maamigili island in Alif Dhaal atoll and resorts of the Villa Group.

Full details are available at the link below:

Source URL:  Maldives Independent

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