In a longstanding politically-charged legal battle, the Maldivian Democratic Party-led government has filed another appeal in the country’s Supreme Court, seeking to nullify a 2019 High Court ruling that it had unlawfully seized the airport in 2017 from FlyMe parent, the Villa Group. The company is owned by Qasim Ibrahim, the leader of the Jumhooree Party, the country’s biggest political opposition. An initial scheduled hearing was cancelled last week, reported Maldivian newspaper, The Edition.
Kaadedhdhoo Airport is a domestic airport on the island of Kaadedhdhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll. In 2013, the government and the Villa Group signed an agreement whereby the company would develop and manage the airport for a period of 50 years. The Villa Group is one of the biggest businesses in the Maldives with major operations in shipping, import and export, tourism, fishing, media, communication and transport. Ibrahim is one of the most influential businessmen in the country. He unsuccessfully ran for the Jumhooree Party in the presidential race in 2013.
In 2014, the government first tried to cancel the agreement with Villa Group, citing alleged breach of contract on auditing and security issues but later reversed its decision. However, in 2017, it annulled the contract. Villa Group appealed to the country’s Civil Court, which in November 2018 ruled the termination was unlawful and ordered the government to hand back the airport. The High Court upheld the lower court’s ruling in April 2019.
Meanwhile, FlyMe flew its first international charter between Malé and Colombo Int’l in September 2020 and plans to start scheduled operations on the route once Sri Lankan borders re-open to commercial traffic. It operates one ATR42-500, two ATR72-500s, and a single ATR72-600, according to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module.
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