Maamigili MP, Chairman of Villa Group Qasim Ibrahim has requested that Villa Shipping and Trading Company be given ADh. Fenfushi lagoon for resort development in place of Th. Elaa. Elaa was leased to Villa Shipping and Trading Company by the government – until it was repossessed during the administration of former President Yaameen Abdul Gayyoom subsequent to the State nullifying the contract made between the two parties.
As per information received to Sun, a letter has been sent by Qasim on behalf of Villa Shipping to the Tourism Ministry – requesting that the company be given Fenfushi lagoon for resort development in place of Elaa. This is supposedly in response to a request by the Ministry to provide a list of islands at which the company would prefer to develop a resort at in place of Elaa.
Prior to this, Qasim had suggested the islands Th. Kanimidhoo and Th. Kalhufahalafushi to the Ministry – but both the islands were deemed unavailable.
In the letter sent by Qasim, he noted that the company be leased Fenfushi lagoon for a period of 99 years – as developing a resort at a lagoon after reclamation can be time-consuming and expensive.
Th. Elaa was initially brought by Villa Shipping from an individual named Abbas Mohamed in 2006.
An official from the company had stated that the company has been regularly paying the rent until in 2012 – the government had permitted to cease payment of rent for all islands being developed as resorts by Villa Shipping for a period of one year.
While the arrangement had been made this way, the first agreement was nullified in 2013 – and a new agreement was signed between the Ministry and Villa Shipping for the lease of Elaa.
As per this agreement, Elaa was leased for a period of 50 years. The agreement also stipulated that rent would be enforced from the date of opening of the resort – whereas the company was given five years to complete the development process.
However, in 2015, a letter signed by then-incumbent Tourism Minister Adeeb Abdul Gaffoor was sent to Villa Shipping - stating that the agreement over Elaa had been nullified. The reasoning given was ‘the lack of goodwill’.
When the case was submitted to the Civil Court by Villa Shipping, the court had ruled in favor of the company – citing that Elaa was repossessed by the government in breach of the agreement made between the two parties. The Court had also ordered Elaa be returned to Villa Shipping.
The High Court had overturned this ruling and ruled in favor of the government when the case was appealed.
However, in 2018, Supreme Court had overturned High Court’s ruling – supporting the earlier decision by Civil Court.