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State seeks to halt enforcement of US$22m payout

The AG office asked the civil court to dismiss Dheebaja’s lawsuit.



The Attorney General’s office has asked the civil court to dismiss a lawsuit seeking the enforcement of a multi-million dollar payout ordered by the Supreme Court last month.

The US$22.5 million payout was won by Dheebaja Investment as compensation for the cancellation of a contract to provide ferry services in four northern atolls.

A closed-door hearing took place at the civil court Monday after the company sought an order to enforce the apex court’s judgment.

In a statement Tuesday night, the AG office accused the civil court of contravening procedural rules in accepting the enforcement case.

According to the court’s own guidelines, an enforcement action could only be initiated if monthly instalments were not being paid in accordance with a judgment. Such cases could only be accepted after the payment period set by the court has expired.

The payment period in the Dheebaja case was six months, but the civil court agreed to hear the case within 15 working days of the Supreme Court judgement, the AG office noted.

The court’s dispute resolution division also failed to initiate proceedings to seek an out-of-court settlement before going to trial, it added.

Citing the procedural issues, the AG office asked the court to dismiss the Dheebaja case.

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 Investment 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.

The ruling prompted calls for the Supreme Court to review its decision in light of the financial loss to be borne by the state.

The AG office has since decided to ask the Supreme Court to review its judgment. It was unclear how the court arrived at the US$22.5 million figure as it was not derived from an audit report, Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath told the press.

Earlier this month, an agreement between Dheebaja and former MP Alhan Fahmy’s law firm was leaked on social media, according to which Kings Attorneys and Consultants is owed half of the US$22.5 million payout as a “success fee.”