No injustice in Villa Resorts crackdown says Tourism Min

Tourism Minister Moosa Zameer has stated that resorts operating without settling taxation and fees to the state are in clear violation of regulations - referring to the series of crackdowns on Villa Hotels and Resorts Group venues.

Zameer's statement came post Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) claiming the Villa Shipping Trading company owned Villa Resorts had not settled tax fees to the authority for past 10 months.

A statement released by Tourism Ministry has cited that due to corporations avoiding taxation fees results in the decline of state revenue which in turn is used for multiple projects of growth and development of citizens. Furthermore the statement highlighted the concurring complaints from corporations that settle taxation before due regarding the ones refraining from settling such payments.

MIRA has claimed that Qasim Ibrahim owned Villa Shipping and Trading company has failed to settle in an amount of USD 18.9 million, resulting in the tax authority taking steps against the corporation under MIRA's 'enforcement policy.'

The tax authority also claims that the Villa owned resorts Sun Island Resort, Fun Island Resort, Paradise Island and Holiday Island resort had all failed to turn in their Tourist Goods and Service Tax (TGST) fees and Green-Tax fees since March 2017. Villa owes USD 5.1 million dollars to MIRA as TGST and Green-Tax.

With the recent crackdown on Villa resorts, opposition and several local media reported the government unjustly using influence and power to hinder and undermine the businesses of Jumhooree Party leader and Villa Group owner Qasim Ibrahim - as a politically motivated act.

However Tourism Ministry assured the situation is a far-cry from media allegations and opposition accusations, asserting the action was taken against Villa Group for their breach of tax regulations.

A distinct Act related to pork and alcoholic beverages mandates resorts and hotels of internal sales of these products - meaning the resorts are restricted from selling or lending these products to other resort outlets for business and sales purposes. The Act cites that the mentioned products can only be distributed under its registered resort venue.

Several Villa Group resorts were found in breach of the Act resulting in Maldives Customs Service raiding these holiday venues for inspection.

Customs had released a statement on Sunday stating their operations warranted under court order grants them the authority to confiscate products under Criminal Procedure Act. Customs asserted the operation was carried out to reclaim illegally distributed alcoholic products from a bonded warehouse under Royal Island Resort's name to other Villa resorts.

The recent crackdown had targeted harsh criticism from opposition supporters and activists alike with the former presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed lambasting the government's action, describing it as "politically motivated act of hate and intimidation."

Customs had reciprocated by explaining the situation through their statement while condemned the individuals responsible for misleading public by spreading falsified narratives of the issues.

Authorities had confiscated alcoholic products from Fun Island Resort on Saturday while they had seized Royal Island's license of importing and selling alcohol.