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President approves MVR174m payout to Dheebaja

A ruling party lawmaker alleged corruption over the failure to seek a Supreme Court review.



The government has decided to hand out half of an MVR348 million (US$22.5 million) payout ordered by the Supreme Court as compensation to a local company for the cancellation of ferry service contracts. 

A settlement committee formed to advise the president on compensation claims recommended paying MVR174 million after discussions with Dheebaja Investments, president’s office spokesman Ibrahim Hood told the press on Monday. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih accepted the committee’s advice, he said.

In July, Dheebaja agreed to halt a lawsuit seeking an enforcement order from the civil court in order to negotiate with the settlement committee, which is tasked with seeking out-of-court settlements to resolve cases.

After Dheebaja won the compensation claim in April, Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath said his office would ask the Supreme Court to review its decision. But the AG did not file a case despite the complete overhaul of the apex court’s bench in recent weeks. 

On Tuesday, parliament’s parliament’s public accounts committee decided to summon AG Riffath as proposed by MP Yaugoob Abdulla from the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party. The AG previously told the oversight committee that he did not expect a fair ruling from the justices on the bench at the time, Yaugoob noted, expressing concern with the failure to take up the matter with the new bench.

The Dhaandhoo MP alleged corrupt “financial transactions” and called for a police investigation. MDP MP Abdul Ghafoor Moosa urged the president to reconsider his decision and seek a Supreme Court review.

Dheebaja was enlisted during the administration of former president Mohamed Nasheed in 2010 to provide ferry services in Noonu, Raa, Baa and Lhaviyani Atolls in exchange for 47 plots of land to build hotels and ferry terminals. The agreement was terminated by former president Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government in May 2013, a unilateral decision that was deemed unlawful by the civil court.

The lower court judgment in favour of Dheebaja was overturned by the High Court last year. But the Supreme Court quashed the decision on the grounds that the state’s appeal was filed two months after the deadline expired.

In May, it was revealed that a former lawmaker’s law firm was due half of the payout ordered by the Supreme Court as a “success fee” for winning the case.

Last month, the anti-corruption watchdog decided to probe large sums paid out by the state as compensation for the cancellation of contracts under the previous administration.

Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer told parliament in early October that the state has paid MVR1 billion as compensation since the current administration took office in November 2018, including a US$18 million arbitration award to NexbisUS$30 million payout ordered by Supreme Court to WLT and MVR7 million awarded by Supreme Court as damages for medical negligence.

Other cases included more than MVR26 million owed to subcontractors by the dissolved Maldives Road Development Corporation, an out-of-court settlement to compensate more than 200 buyers of Sealife apartments, US$1.4 million worth of import duties reimbursed to the country’s largest tobacco seller and a US$5 million payout from the state broadcaster to a marketing company.

In late August, US$55 million was paid as compensation to Noomadi Resorts and Residences for the cancellation of two housing projects.