In a surprising turn of events, the government of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih reached an out-of-court settlement in the long-standing dispute with Dheebaja Investment, agreeing to pay a staggering MVR 64 million in compensation. This decision was made by the previous administration during their final days, while the country was already grappling with a debt situation that has left the new administration requesting foreign nations for financial help, passing an additional budget for the year as well as halting a few projects that were underway due to not being able to finance them.
With this, the decision taken by the former administration has raised eyebrows among many, as the current administration has decided to take matters into their own hands, putting a halt to the hefty settlement that was about to take place.
While this legal battle is making headlines yet again, the roots of this legal battle trace all the way back to the tenure of former President Mohamed Nasheed. During his administration, Dheebaja Investment was contracted in order to carry out the ferry services, a hefty project, which was later abolished by the administration of President Mohamed Waheed in 2013. With this, the company filed a hefty MVR 2.8 billion suit in compensation at the Civil Court of Maldives.
This legal tussle then took a significant turn in 2014 when the Civil Court ordered the state to pay MVR 368 million to Dheebaja Investment, however, this decision was later overturned by the High Court in July of 2018, sending the case back to the Civil Court.
While word of this case has been pretty quiet since then, things took an interesting turn yet again as the Civil Court ruled that the case between Dheebaja Investment and the State should not proceed, citing that the company has requested to withdraw the charges. While many saw this as a positive turnout, the twist in the case unfolded as it turned out that Dheebaja Investment signed an agreement with the Solih government, which led to the decision to withdraw the lawsuit in exchange for an out-of-court settlement.
The terms of the agreement make the case even more intriguing as the final payment that the state agreed to pay Dheebaja totalled a shocking MVR 64 million, with the initial tranches of MVR 12.8 million being dispersed within the first two weeks of the agreement, and the remainder set to be dispersed within a month from the signing date.
The deadline for this final payment of MVR 51.2 expired in September 2023, however, it appears that the state had not dispersed the final payment even until the administration ended, leaving the current office to deal with this case that has been ongoing for three administrations in a row.
Amidst the murkiness of this deal, the current Attorney General (AG), Ahmed Usham, has revealed that there is no official document proving that the compensation amount was decided after consultation with the AG’s office. He expressed concern over the lack of involvement of the Attorney General's Office in such a significant court case settlement, emphasizing the need for their input in decisions of this nature.
Usham further revealed that the decision to pay MVR 64 million was made by a settlement committee formed in the President's Office, acting on the advice of the Economic Council. The absence of official documents indicating the office's consultation has sparked an investigation into the matter.
Adding even more suspicion around the settlement, it appears that the only reason the disbursement of funding to the company was halted was due to missing documents, as it appears that the former Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer had approved the MVR 51.2 million on the last day of the former administration.
As the case carried on for yet another year, many people are now starting to question whether there is more to this case than meets the eye, as the former administration not only signed off such a hefty amount in compensation through an out-of-court settlement but also signed off on such a large sum of money at the very end of the administration.
With the former administration led by Solih continuing to fall in the eye of the public due to the numerous cases of corruption, this is yet again another case which has to be investigated under the current administration as the suspicion around the settlement continues to increase.