Atoll Paradise attributes troubles to “lengthy delay in securing bank finance”

Tour operator Atoll Paradise has issued a statement “apologising unreservedly for any frustration caused to any of its customers due to recent cancellations.”

Atoll Paradise is one of the Maldives’ largest local tour operators. However, the Tourism Ministry last week suspended its permit amid allegations it had defrauded customers and international travel agents.

Tourism Ministry Senior Legal Officer Faseeh Zahir told Minivan News the government had have received several complaints in recent months that bookings had been cancelled by the company without being refunded.

“There are allegations of fraud and of the company not acting according to regulations. This is not just a case of one guest, we have received several complaints,” said Zahir. The company has also been fined MVR 1 million (US$65,000).

In its statement, Atoll Paradise said it “wished to make it clear that it is a reputable business organisation and the recent unfortunate developments stemmed from a lengthy delay in securing bank finance to sustain its business operations.”

Cancellations were “unavoidable”, the company said, while “strenuously emphasising” that no employee of the company “ has ever engaged in fraudulent activities towards any external parties.”

The company acknowledged it had encountered “some cash flow difficulties” in 2013, stemming from an “unexpected delay in a bank loan facility.”

“This delay is not to be blamed on anyone (neither person nor corporation), as financial proceedings can sometimes encounter unexpected obstacles and include complexities and lengthy legal clearance procedures beyond the initially expected scope,” the company contended.

“Although the management had explored all available options and done its best to avoid having to cancel any bookings, such cancellations could not be avoided anymore, if Atoll Paradise did not want to further disappoint its customers by leaving them stranded at the airport after their arrival in the Maldives,” the statement read.

“These actions, although difficult to make, were taken in accordance with the Booking Policy of the company, and all customers will be refunded with minimum delay,” the company promised.

Atoll Paradise said it was working with the Ministry of Tourism on “resolving these unfortunate issues so that all pending refunds can be processed without any further delay and normal business operations of the company can commence as soon as possible. It is important to note here that several refunds have already been processed prior to this decision by the Ministry. All customers are informed periodically on the status of their refund.”

Disgruntled customers waiting on refunds

Several of the company’s customers meanwhile contacted Minivan News following publication of last week’s article, with details of their grievances and extensive documentation and correspondence with the company.

The Barras couple initially booked their 14 night, US$24,698 holiday at Dusit Thani resort through Atoll Paradise in July 2012 for mid-February 2013. However three weeks before travelling the couple were forced to cancel their booking for medical reasons, and were promised a refund of US$23,113, including a US$350 ‘admin fee’ and five percent ‘bank charge’ on January 24, as a “one time exception”.

In a long series of successive emails, assorted company staff repeatedly apologised and promised repayment in several days, providing reasons including “It will take 1 to 2 billing cycles for the amount to be posted back to your account”, “I can only file for the refund request by Monday due to bank holidays here until Sunday”, and “we are moving all of our principal banking from three different banks to just one which is Mauritius Commercial bank.”

Several staff members informed the couple that Atoll Paradise had already paid the resort in advance, and was waiting for a refund.

The couple contacted the resort’s management directly, only to discover that the resort had never received payment from Atoll Paradise, and had cancelled the booking immediately on first request.

“The money you paid [to Atoll Paradise was not remitted to us, nor was there any communication regarding a refund since no monetary transaction had transpired between Dusit Thani Maldives and Atoll Paradise for this particular booking,” wrote Dusit Thani’s General Manager Desmond Hatton to the couple on April 9, 2013.

After waiting three months for the refund, the couple began to add their concerns about the company to others on Tripadvisor.

“Your case has been raised this with our Executive Management team, to try and get a better understanding as to when we can rectify this internal issue, as you know this has been pending a while and as such we are not delivering the exceptional service we are known for, this is very disappointing and I can assure you this matter is not being taken lightly,” the couple were informed in April by a staff member called ‘Laura’.

The Barras were then contacted by Atoll Paradise’s Director of Business Development, Chloe Esme Bagir, who informed them that “due to the extent of your unruly comments on the internet, it is now being dealt by our Legal and Accounts Department and will be reviewed in strict adherence to our published Booking & Cancellation Policy. We will reply to you once we get their decision.”

At the time of their contacting Minivan News, the couple were still awaiting payment of their refund.

“Since we didn’t go, the hotel didn’t get paid … so [Atoll Paradise] decided to keep the money for themselves. What kind of company does this?” asked Tristan Barras.

In an email to Minivan News, Atoll Paradise advised that Barras “cancelled shortly before arrival and thus lost 100 percent of the amount paid, in accordance with Atoll Paradise Booking Policy.”

Booking cancelled four days before flight: “I appreciate this will have come as somewhat of a shock”

In another case, Nitchima Chia from Thailand booked a two bedroom pool villa at Centara for six people on March 6-10 through Atoll Paradise, paying US$6,235 upfront via credit card.

Four days before the group was due to depart, having already paid US$3450 for flights from Bangkok to the Maldives, Chia was informed by Atoll Paradise that due to “unavoidable circumstances arising within our operations” their booking, among others falling between May 1-16, had been cancelled.

The company gave Chia the option to refund the full booking value, or reschedule the booking after July 1.

Noting that the group had days left to get on the plane and that the flights were non-refundable, Chia urged Atoll Paradise to move them to another hotel, or refund the full expenses of the trip: “July is impossible as the kids need to go to school during this time,” she said.

Atoll Paradise replied: “I appreciate this will have come as somewhat of a shock, however we are unable to honor any bookings within this period.”

“Atoll Paradise is in the process of relocating to a newly built office compound. This is a project we have been working on for the past 12 months to expand and grow our business. Due to this we are having difficulty in managing some our arrivals for this period efficiently,” the company wrote.

“Your booking with Atoll Paradise is cancelled and will not be reinstated.”

In another email, Atoll Paradise advised that “as only the accommodation is confirmed with us, we cannot hold any responsibility for the flights”, and urged Chia to contact her travel insurance provider.

Chia was initially promised a refund within four weeks with a “cut-off period” of eight weeks. However, on June 6 she was informed that the “refunds are taking a further delay due to lack of funding. We are confident we should receive these funds within the month of July. Please give us a little more time to settle this.”

On July 5, the company informed Chia that it understood this delay in your refund “is causing a lot of frustration for you”, and assured her that “the delay in your refund is not intentional.”

“The entire management team are working tirelessly to expedite the refund process for all our clients. Our bank has already agreed a facility for us, agreement already approved and signed. Due to lengthy legal documentation, the funds from our bank have taken longer than initially anticipated hence these delays. We anticipate the refund will be in your account end of this month and latest first week of August.”

Chia subsequently contacted the Royal Thai Consulate in Male.

Some customers, speaking about their experiences with the company on a 28-page Tripadvisor thread, reported success in securing chargeback payments direct with their credit card companies.

Police Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef meanwhile last week confirmed police had begun investigating the company over fraud allegations.

The Tourism Ministry has said Atoll Paradise’s permit will remain revoked until all alleged outstanding payments and grievances have been settled.


35 thoughts on “Atoll Paradise attributes troubles to “lengthy delay in securing bank finance””

  1. Using customers' money to pay for construction material of a new building was the big mistake!
    Still they cannot apologize for making that mistake.
    Poor management and poor leadership or lack of integrity?
    Our salaries were not paid on time for months, customers were shouting at us but still they blame lengthy loan delay to hide their greediness and silly mistake!!!
    Shame on them.

  2. The problems at Atoll Paradise was known by industry insiders as long as 6 months ago. Resorts with previous business relationship accepted their clients without being paid by AP.

    Yet they were deemed fit for the industry awards.

  3. This company should be banned permannentay. They are ruining the name of Maldives - Its tourism sector like resorts and other DMC's. Many resorts have black listed them over 6 to 8 months ago. And the biggest joke - they received awards as late as May 2013. What is this joke.

  4. Atollparadise is in financial trouble and thats the issue here and that should have been the headline. Just taking a few random examples to theorize that atollparadise is fraudulent is not correct.

    Also why not highlight real fraudulent activities such as Villa group.

    The only difference here is that Mr. Bagir does not control the judiciary.

  5. I paid holiday fee in advanced by US$13,000 and received an email from Atoll Paradise this morning and told my booking will be cancelled and no refund. I nee

  6. I need helps. I paid US$13,000 holiday fees and was noticed my booking would be cancelled and no refund.

  7. OMG! I booked my honeymoon in Anantara Veli through AP. So helpless now. What should I do?

  8. Liability of Atoll Paradise

    -Bank loan (MCB) $ 3.5mn
    -Refunds To be done $ 0.8mn
    -Booking Advance Collected $ 1.6mn
    -Resort Liability (creditors) $ 5.4mn
    -Exchange dollars to Rufiya by issuing post dated cheques $ 0.45mn
    -Local Creditors $ 1.0mn
    -Pending salary,Rent other $ 0.25mn

    total liability is around $ 13.00mn.
    Who can tell atoll paradise was last seven years. it was run as wealthy company, because they have spent clients advance money which they collected 60 days before arrival.

    (Consider these figures Approx)

  9. oh welcome to the real life dearest AP!
    You were up there and thought you could lead it? Sorry NO.

  10. Dear Ryan,
    Call your credit card company and dispute you payment. when you send document to credit card company pls attached this document also.

    do it immediately. if it is not possible send the details to VISA global.

  11. I received the same shocking email as well and my booking was for my honeymoon!
    The 1st thing i did was a plan B booking through And i advise you to do the same before trying to get your money back

  12. The man of the moment..

  13. actually these are not allegations by the clients who experience a terrible vacation to Maldives rather it's the truth. AP is just pocketing the money of their clients. revoke their license to operate for good to have an example to other tour operator agency & make this a lesson. do not give a new license in case bagir wants to put up a new tour agency company.

  14. The partners or owners of AP should be required to pay their customers back. They knowingly took payments when they are aware that they have not been fulfilling their commitments and they are millions in debt.

    What a birthday....

  15. Thank you so much E-news!
    have done as per your advice.
    fingers crossed for refund.

  16. Dear All,

    If your credit card company is not giving better solution for regarding the charge back, go through with global visa.
    there will be little bit chances.

    [email protected] (Just explain your credit card bank is not providing better solution on this regard)
    Try to explain this way also,
    Push, Push….you will get your money back.

  17. As per the Auditing standard, the audit firm cannot do a audit in a company if Financial controller is relative of auditor or partner.

    but in 2011, 2012 what was happened to AP?

    Who did the audit? Who was the FC? What is the profit they have shown to Bagir? What is relationship between both FC and Auditor (Partner)?

    Kindly investigate. Audit firm should provide unbiased ML to his client. did they violated this?

    How much they invoice to AP to consult to get the Bank loan from that particular bank?

    it was $90,000.00. they did it for money?

  18. Hello Guys!

    For those who have master card, go speak to your Company directly.

    please contact the
    MasterCard Assistance Center:
    Call collect from anywhere globally: +1-636-722-7111 or
    toll-free from the United States: +1-800-627-8372 or
    send an e-mail to [email protected]

    By the way, AP has asked all of the travel consultants to leave without the pending salaries!! Hmmm... any employment contracts where the pool TC's can get a bit fairness?? KARMA!

  19. Hello~anyone can tell me how I can get my money back?(I paid by telegrapgic transfer.)Please tell me, I'll try every ways!! AP ruin my wonderful trip 🙁 !!

  20. I paid for my holiday on the 16 July. On the same day they closed the company!!!! Why Ap is playing with people's mind? I want my money back.

  21. First, the solution must be through the Ministry of Tourism to retrieve the money to us <this link PDF PDF

    Second put Marchil and the director false in prison

  22. I am also another victim of Atoll Paradise.
    I had booked with Atoll Paradise back in March an 8 night stay divided into 2 resorts, the Jumeirah Dhevanafushi and Anantara Kihavah. Of course in order for me to secure the booking I had to pay a deposit which was half the total amount.The deposit was $7500.

    Right after that, the travel consultant from Atoll Paradise stopped answering my emails no matter how often I sent! The hotels did not also have any record of our reservation.

    Last week Atoll Paradise sends me the infamous email they sent to all their customers stating indirectly that they have gone bankrupt and that they can not reinstate the money and that I have to go back to my bank to sort it out!

    Lucky for me all internet purchases on my card are insured through my bank, and I was able to get the refund of my money.

    Whatthey do is play with people's lives and dreams, couples book honeymoons, friends book vacations, and they all depended on them to prepare their vacation. This is really a disaster.

  23. For everyone who has paid through a VISA credit card, go to your bank along with the invoice you got from Atoll Paradise and the Credit Card Authorization form you sent them. VISA has an insurance on such fraud cases, and you will probably get reinstated with the full amount.

    I wish everyone gets their money back

  24. Unacceptable what is happening by the Ministry of Tourism so far Sent 4 emails I did not receive reply!!!!!!!

    What is the solution?!

  25. Visa credit card has insurance. Visa debit card dont. I paid $5900 usd for our honeymoon lost it.
    I will try the web links listed but not holding my breath. We had to get a loan to pay for our next/new honeymoon. Lucky we booked flights separate. Also email sent asking for refund again dont like chances. Hope rest of travellers can get some luck too

  26. Hi Everyone,

    "Message from ATOLL PARADISE Management"

    Finally we have already started documentation for our new Company with new name (a name we will publish soon), We are very proud of Our Boss, 90% new website development is finished. We Will Come soon in to the Luxury Travel World Market again.

    ATOLL PARADISE is close for temporary, NEW NAME SOOON!

    Well done!! Mohamed Bagir.

    Thank you,

  27. Hi All,
    I am another victum of AP, they emailed us a night before our flight it was 20 June 2013, wven a day before they sent us the 800$ voucher to spend at resort as gift who says thet r not fraud they definatly are. I even blame the resort we asked them before payments if atoll paradise is a reliable tour operator or not they give us a green signal they could had warn us. It seems it is really a big game because no one's money was involved. Hope to get our 13000$ back.

  28. Hi all,

    My holiday insurance company have asked for the name of the liquidators to confirm i'm not entitled to any money. Does anyone know who has been appointed?



  29. We are very disappointed and angry. We heard and thought they were a reputable company. Service was good during inquiries and pre booking.

    We booked through Atoll Paradise for our honeymoon @ six senses laamu resort.
    Paid a USD 1,500 deposit 4 months before the arrival date.
    A month before we paid the remainder 2,200 USD.

    • 4 days before the honeymoon, we get an E-MAIL from them saying:
    • Sorry, your reservations have been cancelled due to some back operational issues. No further details nor was a REFUND possible.
    • They tell you will get your about 2-3 months.
    • Booking is no longer valid and cancelled.
    • We called Six Senses who confirmed that they had a booking under our name but can't hold it as they have NOT been paid by ATOLL!!!!
    • We had paid for the whole package in full.

    Needless to say, this was a horrible thing to have done to us, days before our wedding and our honeymoon departure.
    We booked again with Six Senses directly and paid again for the entire amount that was previously paid by ATOLL which they did NOT pay the hotel.

    Today, we are still awaiting our refunds and can't seem to get a response from them either. Very suspicious and we feel ROBBED – blind sighted.

  30. And Ministry of tourism doesn't respond either...looks like we have been defrauded with no further information and shall kiss our $$ goodbye to the Maldives

  31. I really worried about your situation JT, But Gov should not protect this buggers,
    Police never do their duty on honest. bloody politics everywhere in maldives.


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