Male, January 21 (newsin.asia): The Maldivian opposition leader cum business tycoon, Gasim Ibrahim, head of the Jumhoory Party (JP), has come under mounting pressure from the tax authorities, ahead of the Presidential election expected later this year.
Customs officials along with the police had raided five resorts of the group owned by Gasim Ibrahim last Wednesday, which included Fun Island Resort, Sun Island Resort, Paradise Island Resort, Holiday Island Resort and Royal Island Resort.
The authorities later claimed that four of the five resorts searched had an illegally acquired stock of pork and alcohol.
The country’s inland revenue authority temporarily revoked the alcohol license of the four resorts over the failure to pay taxes.
However, the Villa Group had illegally diverted pork and alcohol from its sole license in Royal Island Resort to its sister properties.
Customs officials have informed the company that the liquor license issued to Royal Island Resort has now been suspended for a period of six months over multiple violations.
The latest move by the customs service comes less than a day after it seized and took away the alcohol stock at Fun Island Resort late Saturday.
The Villa Group remains adamant that it had not done anything illegal.
The opposition had called for protests claiming that the raids were politically motivated ‘targeting’ of a key opposition figure.
Gasim was convicted of bribery in August last year, and sentenced to a three year prison term, months after he inked a landmark pact with former Presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed and the Islamic Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla to work against the government.
The business tycoon was granted medical leave to travel to Singapore where he had undergone a minor heart surgery in September before. But instead of coming back to serve his sentence, he travelled to Germany and stayed put there.
The Abdulla Yameen government wants Gasim Ibrahim to come back and complete his sentence.
But Gasim, a former member of parliament, claims that no airline would allow him on board an aircraft due to his poor health. .
The tourism industry meanwhile, has expressed deep concern over the raids warning the government of adverse effects on its economy.
Details of Charges
The Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) has filed a lawsuit of MVR 75 million against Gasim Ibrahim’s company Villa Shipping.
MIRA already had previous lawsuits against five companies of Gasim, claiming a total of MVR 2.5 billion (USD 166 million). The cases are currently ongoing at the Civil Court.
The new lawsuit against Villa Shipping, of which Gasim is a shareholder, comprises of three charges: USD 3.2 million (MVR 49 million) from Tourism Goods and Services Tax (TGST) and fines, USD 1.2 million (MVR 18 million) from Gross Receipts Taxes (GRT) and fines, and MVR 7 million as Goods and Services Taxes (GST) and fines.
In addition to Villa Shipping, MIRA had also filed a lawsuit against a private company Bingaa Maldives for MVR 170,000 for GST and fines. The Civil Court has accepted and registered all of the cases.
Apart from MIRA’s lawsuits, Gasim has already been convicted for bribery and is facing a jail sentence of three years. He is currently in Germany seeking medical aid.
The government had earlier seized several uninhabited islands and lagoons which were leased to Gasim’s companies.
The Civil Court had ruled in favor of the companies when they sued against the government. However, the High Court had later overthrown the verdict.
(The featured image at the top is that of Gasim Ibrahim, Maldivian tycoon and leader of the Jumhoory Party)