Temporary liquor license valid for one resort, says Villa Group

The temporary liquor license issued to the embattled Villa Group is valid for only one of its resorts, the company said Thursday.

Customs along with the police had raided five resorts of the group owned opposition Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim, which included Fun Island Resort, Sun Island Resort, Paradise Island Resort, Holiday Island Resort and Royal Island Resort.

Authorities later claimed that four of the five resorts searched under the operation had an illegally acquired stock of pork and alcohol.

According to the authorities, the country's inland revenue authority had temporarily revoked the alcohol license of the four resorts over 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.

Government had later suspended the liquor license issued to Royal Island Resort for a period of six months citing "multiple violations."

Tourism ministry however had decided to grant a 14 day temporary license to the Villa Group which it said was taken after discussions with stakeholders of the tourism industry.

However, a senior Villa Group official told AVAS on Thursday that the customs service has released alcohol only to the Royal Island Resort under the temporary license.

"They only released the alcohol to us several days after the temporary licence came into effect. But even then we are only getting alcohol to Royal," the official lamented.

The official reiterated that the company has been struggling to supply alcohol and pork to the rest of its resorts and insisted that the existing stock would run out soon.

Tourists have been complaining due to the limited availability of alcohol in the rest of the Villa resorts, the official added.

The crackdown on Villa resorts has been described as a politically motivated attempt to intimidate its owner Gasim.

Gasim was convicted of bribery in August last year months after he inked a landmark pact with former presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Mohamed Nasheed and religiously conservative 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 travelling to Germany.

Despite his leave expiring in late September, the former lawmaker had not returned claiming that no airline would allow him on board an air craft due to his ailing condition.