Controller of Immigration and Emigration Dr Mohamed Ali has said there is “no legal barrier” preventing the implementation of a border control system (BCS) developed by Malaysia-based security solutions firm Nexbis.
Dr Ali told Minivan News today Nexbis could continue with introduction of a new biometric BCS system after the Supreme Court in June invalidated a High Court injunction blocking work on the project in May.
The controller made his comments after Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed maintained calls in local media to halt the BCS installation, citing allegations of corruption involving the deal.
Dr Jameel claimed a letter requesting work on the project to cease in line with the recommendations of Attorney General Aishath Azima Shakoor and the country’s Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) had been sent to the immigration controller.
“The government is also of the same view pertaining to the continuation of the project. We urge the project be taken forward with the recommendations of the AG and the ACC. As far as I’m aware, it is the stand of the government,” he was quoted as saying by Haveeru.
President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza was not responding to calls at the time of press regarding the comments attributed to Dr Jameel.
The legal dispute between the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and Nexbis escalated last week after the High Court ordered police to investigate claims made to the ACC that Chief Judge of the High Court Ahmed Shareef met officials from the company in Bangkok.
The dispute concerns the deployment of a border control system, specifically the installation of an electronic border gate system in Male’s Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA), bringing technological upgrades such as facial recognition, fingerprint identification and e-gates to the Maldives.
The Rf500 million (US$39 million) deal had stalled after the ACC alleged corruption in the bidding process, leading to a ongoing series of high-profile court battles and delays that led the Malaysian firm to threaten legal action against the Maldivian government should it incur losses for the work already done on the project.
In May 2012, the project was brought to a standstill by a High Court injunction and a raid on immigration offices by ACC staff. At the time the Rf10 million (US$650,000) first phase of the border control project had been completed, according to local media reports.
Speaking today, Immigration Controller Dr Ali claimed that, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to overrule the injunction, Nexbis had continued its work to install the system from where it had previously been halted.
“In the absence of a legal order and unless I get a decision from the cabinet, there is nothing that I can do on this issue,” he said. “The government wanted a biometric system to stop the smuggling and trafficking of people.”
Dr Ali added that with the Maldives having already signed up to conventions pledging to try and more effectively combat Transnational Organised Crime like human trafficking, new systems were needed to help meet these aims.
“From our own experience, we have found people being trafficked back into the country even after they have previously been deported,” the controller claimed. “A system like this should put a stop to that.”
The Maldives last month featured in the US State Department’s Tier Two Watch List for Human Trafficking for the third year in a row.
Having “not demonstrated evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous year”, the country only narrowly avoided a descent to Tier 3 – the worst category – after presenting a written plan on its commitments, claimed a corresponding US State Department report.
According to the report, implementation of the government’s written plan, “would constitute making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”