Gili Lankanfushi fined over MVR 500,000 for damaging sandbank

Screen grabs from a video clip of Gili Lankanfushi employees digging trenches in a sandbank on January 21, 2021.

Promus Pvt. Ltd. – the operator of Gili Lankanfushi resort – has been fined over MVR 500,000 for attempting to destroy a sandbank which lies between the resort and K. Hinmafushi.

The incident took place on January 21, when a group of Gili Lankanfushi employees, led by David Stepetic – the resort’s general manager at the time – dug trenches across the sandbank. The incident sparked widespread outrage and forced Stepetic to resign from his post. It also prompted an investigation by the police and Environmental Protectional Agency (EPA).

Four months after the incident, EPA issued a statement on Sunday afternoon announcing that its investigation uncovered Gili Lankanfushi employees dug trenches in three areas in the sandbank to force erosion.

EPA said that it has therefore fined the resort’s operator Promus by MVR 562,980, and informed Promus of the penalty on Thursday.

Gili Lankanfushi employees were caught red-handed by Hinmafushi residents, who captured them on video.

In face of mounting public outrage after video clips of the attempted destruction of the sandbank went viral, Steptic resigned in February, before which he was suspended and had a travel ban out on him to prevent him from leaving Maldives as local authorities investigated the case.

Hinmafushi Council urged authorities to punish the people behind the attempted destruction of the sandbank to the full extent of the law.

Hinmafushi residents allege Gili Lankanfushi attempted to destroy the sandbank because they were unhappy that guests at the resort saw locals at the sandbank.

Any changes to sandbanks and other locations of environmental significance requires an environmental assessments and inspections, and express permission from EPA.