The High Court on Thursday (April 18) overturned a Civil Court ruling declaring the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) could not terminate a border control system (BSC) agreement signed by the Department of Immigration with Malaysian mobile security firm Nexbis.
The latest High Court ruling (Dhivehi) clears the way for the Civil Court to hear the case filed by the ACC should it be resubmitted.
The Civil Court had ruled last year that it could not hear the case filed by the commission after previously declaring that the ACC did not have legal authority to terminate the contract signed with Nexbis in November 2010.
The ACC appealed the ruling at the High Court on February 27, 2012.
In December 2011, the ACC submitted corruption cases to the Prosecutor General’s Office (AGO) against former Immigration Controller Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim and Director General of the Finance Ministry, Saamee Ageel, claiming the pair abused their authority for undue financial gain in awarding Nexbis the MVR 500 million (US$39 million) BSC project.
Ex-controller Ilyas – brother-in-law of President Dr Mohamed Waheed and current state minister of defence and national security – pleaded not guilty to the charges at the first hearing of the trial on April 10 this year.
While the High Court had overturned the previous Civil Court ruling that held the ACC did not have legal authority to terminate a contract, the High Court ruling was itself appealed at the Supreme Court, which has yet to issue a judgment on the case.
Meanwhile, on December 25, 2012, parliament voted unanimously to instruct the government to terminate the BSC agreement with Nexbis.
All 74 MPs in attendance voted in favour of a Finance Committee recommendation following a probe into the potential financial burden on the state as a result of the deal.
In September 2012, the ACC informed the committee that the deal would cost the Maldives MVR 2.5 billion (US$162 million) in potential lost revenue over the lifetime of the contract.
The Finance Committee meanwhile found that the government had agreed to waive taxes for Nexbis despite the executive lacking legal authority for tax exemption.
Following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the US government in March this year to provide a border control system to the Maldives, representatives from Nexbis told Minivan News that the company was uncertain what the MOU would mean for the group’s own border control technology. The technology has been in use at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) since September 2012.
“We do remain confident that the Maldivian government will honour its obligations under the 2010 concession agreement,” read a statement from lawyers representing the company.
“We are confident also of the support we have received by the Immigration Department in implementing and fully operating the system, but remain cautious of individuals that continue to pose obstacles to prevent the success of this project is stemming the national security issues faced by the Maldives today.”