Malaysian security firm Nexbis has invoiced the Department of Immigration and Emigration for US$2.8 million (MVR 43 million) for the installation and operation of its border control system in the country, in line with a concession agreement signed in 2010.
Immigration Controller Dr Mohamed Ali confirmed that Nexbis had submitted a bill seeking charges for the period its system has been in use, as work continues on replacing the Malaysian company’s border controls with new technology provided by the US government.
Immigration officials have said that although “testing” is currently underway on the new US-donated system, Nexbis’ border control technology remains in use at present.
Nexbis’ legal representatives in the Maldives, Suood, Anwar & Co, have requested that within 30 days, the country’s immigration officials pay the company its share of a fee levied on every passenger arriving and departing from the country, Sun Online has reported.
Under the concession agreement signed with the Maldives government, Nexbis levied a fee of US$2 from passengers in exchange for installing, maintaining and upgrading the country’s immigration system. The company also agreed a fee of US$15 for every work permit card issued under the system.
Nexbis’ lawyers argued that the company had expected the fee to be included in the taxes and surcharges applied to airline tickets in and out of the country, according to local media, but said these payments had not been made due to the government’s “neglect” in notifying the relevant international authorities.
Neither Nexbis or Suood, Anwar & Co had responded to emails from Minivan News at time of press.
The bill from Nexbis follows parliament voting unanimously to terminate the agreement on 25 December 2012, in line with a recommendation from the Finance Committee alleging foul play in the signing of the agreement with former Immigration Controller Illyas Hussain Ibrahim.
Presenting the Finance Committee report to the floor, Chair MP Ahmed Nazim explained at the time that the “main problem” flagged by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was that the tender had not been made in accordance with the documents by the National Planning Council authorising the project.
The Finance Committee also recommended terminating the agreement over concerns it contained clauses to waive taxes to the company, Nazim said. He noted that imposing or waiving taxes was a prerogative of parliament under article 97(d) of the constitution.
Following parliament’s termination of the project in December, Nexbis sought a legal injunction to prevent any cancellation of the agreement while court hearings over the contract were still ongoing.
The company has sought to contest whether the ACC has the power to compulsorily request the government to cease all work in relation to the border control system agreement.
However, in April of this year, the High Court overturned a Civil Court ruling declaring the ACC could not terminate a border control system (BSC) agreement signed by the Department of Immigration with Malaysian mobile security firm Nexbis.
The High Court ruling (Dhivehi) cleared the way for the Civil Court to hear the case filed by the ACC should it be resubmitted.
Nexbis has emphatically denied allegations of corruption, previously speculating that “criminal elements supporting human trafficking” were seeking to sabotage the agreement.
Department of Immigration and Emigration Spokesperson Ibrahim Ashraf has said he had not been made aware of any official request from Nexbis for payments beyond media reports, and declined to comment on the issue.
Ashraf did confirm that immigration officials were continuing to use the Nexbis system while border control technology being provided free of charge by the US government was under development.
“Testing of the [US] system is now going on, so the Nexbis border control technology remains in use,” he said. “Some minor adjustments have to be done to the [US] system to customise it to our needs.”
US border system
In March this year, the US government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide the Maldives with a border system after several years of uncertainty and legal wrangling over the future of the country’s immigration controls.
Following the signing of the MOU, Nexbis said it had not been consulted or provided with any details of the US government’s agreement to provide the new system to the Maldives.
Representatives for the Malaysian company at the time expressed uncertainty over what the MOU would mean for the group’s own border control technology that has been in use since September 2012, as part of its concession agreement with the government.
Lawyers representing Nexbis said at the time that they were confident the Maldives government would “honour” its contractual obligations under the 2010 concession agreement.
“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 who continue to pose obstacles to prevent the success of this project is stemming the national security issues faced by the Maldives today,” read a statement.