John Seyfert, an American citizen arrested in January for alleged visa violations, was deported Monday night with a ban on entering the Maldives for 10 years.
The immigration department was planning to deport the 76-year-old on February 10 over the lack of a passport or valid work visa when a court order was issued to halt the deportation until the cases are concluded.
Seyfert was locked in litigation with two Maldivian brothers, Abdul Haseeb Mohamed and Abdul Majeed Mohamed, over a business dispute involving a guesthouse in Hulhumalé. Seyfert claimed his family invested over US$250,000 in the Le Vieux Nice Inn but was defrauded by the Maldivian owners who refused to pay him back.
Seyfert was detained at an immigration facility since late January. According to his lawyer Hussain Shakeeb, Seyfert was taken to the hospital on May 31 after he fell down in the bathroom. The lawyer told local media that the injuries left him unable to talk and doctor’s recommended surgery that was unavailable in the Maldives.
In June 2016, the civil court ordered Haseeb to pay Seyfert US$42,000 – considerably less than the quarter of a million dollars Seyfert says he and his family invested.
The brothers appealed the civil court judgment and on May 15, the high court reduced the amount owed to US$39,000, which it said was established through bank records of the payment transaction. The money was transferred by Seyfert’s family in the US and he maintained that he personally handed over the rest.
Seyfert lived in the Maldives for seven years. He claimed that his former business partners gave him a “phoney work visa” and that his passport was stolen from his room.
Earlier this month, the high court overturned a judgment by the Hulhumalé magistrate court that ordered Seyfert to pay MVR74,000 (US$4,800) as rent.
Seyfert’s former business partners also sued him over alleged refusal to compensate them for damages to their car. They claimed that the car was damaged in an accident while he was driving but Seyfert’s lawyer said there was no record of the accident.
The US embassy in Colombo previously told the Maldives Independent that it has been following Seyfert’s case closely.
“The US Department of State has no higher priority than the protection of US citizens overseas. We take seriously our responsibility to assist US citizens arrested abroad and work to provide all appropriate consular assistance,” an embassy information officer said via email.
“US embassy staff continues to visit John Seyfert at the immigration centre to provide consular support services, most recently on May 8th. As requested and authorised by Mr Seyfert, the US Embassy is in regular contact with his family in the United States concerning his detention.”
Photo from VFP