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Real estate developer blames state for refund delay

Sealife Global owes US$12 million to 258 people.



Real estate developer SeaLife Global has blamed the state for delays in refunding US$12 million owed to 258 people who paid to purchase apartments. 

The apartments were never finished but the buyers were charged booking fees of US$3,225 (MVR50,000). Several people also paid advance payments.

In early January, SeaLife was sued by 203 victims of the alleged scam. It was the largest civil action lawsuit in Maldivian history.

The anti-corruption watchdog launched a probe last month and a police investigation is ongoing.

Last week, a law firm representing Sealife blamed the state’s alleged failure to make payments owed to the company for delays in refunding the buyers.

The state owes SeaLife US$12 million (MVR185 million) for cancelling a previous agreement signed in 2011 to build 80 housing units, Advocacy Chambers said in a statement Thursday.

Former president Abdulla Yameen’s administration signed a resettlement agreement to compensate the developer in February 2018, the statement noted. 

In the wake of Yameen’s defeat in the presidential election, SeaLife filed a lawsuit against the state in November 2018.

“This law firm has been guaranteed that SeaLife Maldives sent a letter to the president’s office with assurance that the refund will be given when the state pays what it owes,” it added.

A five-year project to develop 3,000 housing units and offices was signed between SeaLife Global and the Housing Development Corporation in 2014.

HDC is a state-owned company tasked with the urban development of Hulhumalé, a reclaimed island connected via a bridge to the capital Malé. SeaLife Global is a joint venture between SeaLife Maldives and two Dubai firms. 

The developer failed to complete the apartments by the end of 2018 as agreed upon. Contracts with buyers were not signed despite charging booking fees and advance payments in 2017.

Advocacy Chambers accused the HDC of violating the terms and conditions by cancelling the agreement for the apartments in 2015.

The court civil had overturned the HDC decision and reinstated the contract, but HDC continued to to find pretexts to cancel the contract and caused many delays in the project, the statement said.

“SeaLife Global was forced to do some work twice and waste million of dollars by having to redo this work,” it claimed.