Four resorts owned by the Villa Group have failed to pay taxes worth US$ 5.1 million, the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) has said, following raids on businesses owned by a key opposition leader.
Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim is currently in Germany after fleeing the Maldives on medical leave while serving a three-year jail term for bribery. He is also the founder of Villa Group, which owns and manages resorts in the Maldives.
The authority put out a statement Sunday night following raids and the confiscation of alcohol from four Villa properties.
“Although GST and green tax are paid by tourists to the taxpayer to be paid to the state, four resorts owned by Villa Shipping have not paid any amount as GST and green tax since March 2017,” it said.
Failure to pay US$ 5.1 million as tax meant the resorts were being penalised under MIRA’s enforcement policy “no different to how actions are taken against any other taxpayer through the set procedures,” the statement said.
MIRA also denied reports it was taking part in the raids or that it was working to harm the company’s business.
Customs also released a statement Sunday, challenging Villa’s assertion that transferring alcohol between resorts is legal.
Alcohol and pork cannot be transferred from one facility to other, it said citing the Import Prohibition Act.
It criticised “efforts by some parties to convince the public that a crime plainly specified in law is not a crime.” This is done to “spread misinformation with the aim of fuelling hatred and achieving a political motive.”
The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) – an influential lobby group representing resort owners – is negotiating with the government to resolve the crisis, Mihaaru reported. Gasim is a founder and former vice chairman of MATI.
Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer told Mihaaru that he met senior MATI members to discuss concerns about the raids.
“They have shared concerns with me. Right now, our top priority is to minimise the impact on tourists in these resorts”, Mihaaru quoted Zameer as saying.