The High Court today overturned a Civil Court stay order halting the seizure of three islands and two lagoons belonging to the Villa Group, a company owned by Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim.
The Tourism Ministry on February 5 ordered the Villa group to return Thaa Atoll Elaa, Raa Atoll Maanenfushi, Gaafu Dhaal Atoll Gazeera, Kaafu Atoll Maadhihgaru lagoon, and Vaavehdhi lagoon.
The islands and lagoons had been granted as compensation for the nationalisation of several development projects, including Kadhdhoo airport.
In its February 11 stay order, the Civil Court said the ministry’s termination of the settlement agreement could cause irrevocable damages to the company, and noted the properties had been granted due to the government’s inability to bear the burden of a financial or monetary compensation.
However, the High Court ruled that the lower court had not considered protecting the state from potential damages from the stay order.
“The interests of the state protected from not issuing the stay order is larger than the interests of Villa Hotels and Resorts”, the High Court ruling said.
The Civil Court’s injunction also violated “judicial and legal principles”, the panel of three judges unanimously ruled.
The Tourism Ministry’s Senior Legal Officer Faseeh Zahir said the ministry had not yet made any moves following the High Court order as they are yet to receive confirmation from the Attorney General’s Office.
Gasim has previously contended the ministry is punishing him for his recent alliance with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) against what they allege to be President Abdulla Yameen’s repeated violations of the constitution.
The JP’s opposition to key government legislation last year saw Gasim suffer setbacks to his businesses, as well as physical threats against his person – both of which the party blamed on Gasim’s former political allies.
Speaking at a joint rally of JP and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) on February 5, Gasim stated that “the Maldivian people will not allow injustice.”
“Forget it, nobody can push us back, we will be in the service of the Maldivian people. We will defend the fundamental rights and freedoms of the constitution,” Gasim said.
“You can seize everything, take it. Take it. After all, things can only be taken from people who have them,” he said.
President Abdulla Yameen has denied Gasim’s business reversals were a result of political events, stating that all businesses were treated equally under the law.
Meanwhile, the Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb claimed the Villa Group owes the government US$100million as rent and fines for properties leased to the company.
Gasim has denied the claim and called for Adeeb’s resignation.
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