Ruling coalition MP and tourism tycoon Ahmed Siyam’s Sun Travel and Tours has been ordered to pay US$24million in damages for the abrupt termination of a tourism contract with Hilton International, the Maldives Independent has learned.
Hilton International is seeking to enforce a Singaporean tribunal’s ruling through the Maldives civil court. A hearing was scheduled for 2pm today, but cancelled at the last minute, according to the court’s schedule.
Siyam’s company evicted Hilton International from the Irufushi resort in May 2013. The 221-bed luxury resort was leased to the international hotel chain in 2009.
At the time, Hilton said it had been forced to stop its operations on Irufushi “due to events beyond our control.” Their eviction resulted in several booking cancellations. Staff members said that Siyam had informed Hilton of the abrupt termination on April 30 and ordered the management to leave within 24 hours.
The island was then rebranded as Sun Siyam Irufushi.
Arbitration proceedings which began that May only ended in August last year. Hilton had initially sought some US$70million, but the figure was reduced to US$25million, according to multiple well-placed sources.
Hilton is seeking the civil court’s intervention because Sun Travels has not paid up despite the arbitration ruling, the informed sources said.
Sun Travel declined to comment for this article.
Siyam is the leader of the minor party Maldivian Development Alliance, and a close associate of President Abdulla Yameen.
Siyam’s Sun resorts chain has been listed on the Ethical Maldives website, which calls for targeted boycott of resorts owned by individuals who have close associations with the government.
In November, Siyam called opposition MPs “traitors” and “terrorists” on the parliament floor, claiming calls for boycott was resulting in daily cancellations at his resorts.
Sun Travel manages two other properties in the Maldives, Olhuveli Beach and Spa resort and Sun Aqua Vilu Reef.
Hilton International manages some 4200 properties around the world. In the Maldives, it manages Conrad Maldives Rangali resort in Alif Dhaalu atoll.
Siyam also owns the Sun media group which runs an online paper, a radio and TV station.