JP Leader Gasim threatens STO MD with dismissal if Addu airport stake is sold

Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader and MP for Alif Dhaal Maamigili MP, Gasim Ibrahim, has warned the Managing Director of the State Trading Organisation (STO) Shahid Ali that he would be sacked from his post if an agreement is signed to sell a 30 percent stake in the Addu International Airport Company Ltd (AIACL) to Kasa Holdings.

Responding to a question from a reporter at a function at the JP office last night, Gasim reportedly said Shahid could not “stay in his post if he signs it,” according to newspaper Haveeru.

He also warned that the STO MD could “not live on this island” if the sale was finalised.

The remarks from the JP presidential candidate comes after the Finance Ministry yesterday asked AIACL to halt the sale of a 30 percent stake in the consortium to Kasa Holdings, which was intended to raise finances for development of the Gan airport in Addu City.

‘Champa’ Hussain Afeef, tourism pioneer and business mogul, owns Kasa Holdings. A consortium formed by the Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL), STO and the Gan Airport Company meanwhile owns AIACL.

AIACL Managing Director Shahid Ali – also managing director of STO – told Sun Online on Sunday that the Finance Ministry asked to halt the sale of shares until the Public Enterprises Monitoring and Evaluation Board (PEMEB) gives clearance for the sale.

Shahid meanwhile told newspaper Haveeru that the agreement for the sale of shares was to be signed yesterday and that all arrangements had been made to complete the sale when the Finance Ministry’s instructions came through.

Shahid however claimed that it was “not the government’s policy” to stop the sale, adding that he expected the agreement to be signed next week with PEMEB’s clearance.

Meanwhile, Gasim sent a letter to President Dr Mohamed Waheed last week alleging corruption in the proposed sale of 30 percent of AIACL’s stake.

If the sale goes through, Gasim warned that Kasa Holdings would be positioned to acquire 70 percent of AIACL by moving to sell 40 percent to a buyer of its choice.

“If a member representing the government does not attend a board meeting held to sell this 40 percent, Kasa Holdings will have the power to sell 40 percent of shares to whoever it pleases at whatever price it wants,” Gasim wrote.

“In light of my experience on how these [deals] are completed, I have to say that the ultimate result would be the remaining unsold 40 percent being sold to a buyer of Kasa’s choice and the opening up of the opportunity for Kasa Holdings to control 70 percent, and within this opportunity, for [Kasa] to sell 51 or more percent of AIA to another foreign party.”


Government denies Israeli jet landed in Addu

The government has denied reports in the media that a private Israeli jet carrying tourists to Shangri-la Villigilli Resort landed in Addu City this week.

President’s Office Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza dismissed the claim today as “completely false.”

“The government’s stand is that [the claim] is a lie,” he asserted, suggesting that the rumours originated from staff at the airport.

Two officials at the Addu International Airport Company Ltd (AIACL) told Minivan News that the private jet departed yesterday after spending four days at Gan International Airport.

An airport official told Minivan News on condition of anonymity that the Gulfstream Aerospace G200 flight (4X-CLL) arrived on Sunday with tourists from the Jewish state, and had been parked at the Gan Airport for four days prior to its departure in the morning yesterday.

Banning Israeli flights to the Maldives was among five demands made at a ‘mega-protest’ on December 23, organised by a coalition of eight parties and religious NGOs to ‘Defend Islam’ against the allegedly liberal policies of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration.

Following the change of government on February 7, the ruling coalition-dominated parliament passed a resolution on April 25 preventing Israeli national airline El Al from operating scheduled flights to the Maldives.

El Al had applied to the Ministry of Civil Aviation in May 2011 requesting permission to fly to the country starting in December 2011, prompting the religious conservative Adhaalath Party to warn of a potential terrorist attack “due to the commencement of Zionist Israel’s flight operations to Maldives.”

Adhaalath severed its coalition agreement with the then-ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in September, soon after the Transport Ministry granted a licence to El Al to begin operations to Maldives.

Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla and Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed were not responding at time of press.

“First Israeli flight”

Speaking to Minivan News, an operations officer at Gan International Airport explained that a large number of private jets routinely fly to Addu City with “rich tourists.” The official stressed that authorisation for the flight to land in the Maldives would have been granted by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Officials from the department were unavailable for comment at the time of press.

Community news site Addu Online meanwhile reported that according to an AIACL official, the private jet arrived on Sunday from Israel after transiting in another country.

The community website claimed that jet was operating under a license granted to the Israeli Amateur Radio Club. According to Addu Online, the private jet was the first flight from Israel to land at the Gan airport.

Speaking to Minivan News in April last year, former Transport Minister Adhil Saleem defended the MDP government’s decision to authorise Israeli flights, arguing that it would create opportunities for both Israeli tourists to visit the country as well as facilitate pilgrimages for Maldivians to the al-Aqsa mosques in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam.

“Some Maldivians see Israel as controversial over the issue of Palestine. Yet Palestine accepts Israel as a state, benchmarking the point that I don’t see why we should not allow these flights.”

Saleem said that the Maldives already played host to a number of Israeli tourists at its resorts and that authorising Israeli airlines would allow for a greater influx of guests to the country’s tourism industry.