No deal with government in Hilton case: MDA

Meedhoo MP and Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) leader Ahmed Siyam Mohamed. | Photo: Avas

Malé, Maldives – Sun Travels Chairman Ahmed Siam’s party MDA has said there is no deal between the government and Sun Travels over the civil court’s order to pay Hilton USD 24 million.

The party’s deputy leader and Sun Travels director Ali Mauroof said this yesterday when asked by the media about rumors that a “court concessions deal” was behind Siam and MDA’s decision to support President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih in this year’s presidential election.

Civil Court of the Maldives had ordered that there is no reason why Sun Travels cannot accept the Singapore arbitration order against them to pay Hilton USD 24 million. The court had ordered to pay the outstanding amount within 14 days on 9th of this month.

Ali Mauroof said they do not believe that the current government is interfering in the courts and they will appeal the civil court order in the High Court as they have the right to appeal.

“We will also go to the Supreme Court. After the final verdict comes, the matter will be resolved. We are a business company and we will try to reach an out-of-court settlement,” Ali Mauroof, one of Siam’s closest associates, said.

“So this is not hidden. There is nothing to do with us forming this coalition and pledging allegiance to Ibrahim Mohammed Solih in this case. It will go through the court as it should,” he said.

Mauroof said he had consulted with two representatives of President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih before forming a coalition with the MDP. Therefore, if President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih wins this year’s presidential election, the MDA will get “something reasonable,” he said.

Adhaalath Party and MDA have announced to make a coalition with MDP in the upcoming presidential election. The other two parties in the current government coalition, JP and MRM, have yet to decide.

Sun Travels, which is owned by parliamentary representative of Sh. Meedhoo, MP Ahmed Siyam Mohamed, had awarded the management of Iru Fushi to globally renowned Hilton International in 2009. The ongoing conflict between them arose when Sun Travels later terminated the agreement in 2013, sixteen years before the contract matured, accusing Hilton of violating their terms by misrepresenting facts to influence the contract signing.

Hilton then filed a lawsuit against Sun Travels at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre, which ruled in favour of the former. Sun Travels was ordered to pay USD 26 million to Hilton as damages for contract termination. Singapore’s Court of Appeal upheld this verdict in February 2019.

Sun Travels then appealed the decision at Maldives’ Civil Court, which ruled in the local company’s favour and ordered Hilton International to pay USD 16.6 million to Sun Travels as compensation for violating the terms of their agreement to manage Iru Fushi. However, following this, Maldives’ High Court on 6th July 2020 overturned the Civil Court’s ruling against Hilton International to pay the USD 16.6 million to Sun Travels.

In its decision, the High Court had noted that according to the initial contract between Sun Travels and Hilton, disputes that arise between the two companies must be resolved through the Singapore International Arbitration Centre. Thus, the court moved to uphold the arbitration centre’s findings that Sun Travels had failed to prove that the agreement was null.

Sun Travels asked the court, under the Arbitration Act, to dismiss the arbitration award on the grounds that Hilton had entered into the agreement by fraud and deception and that the arbitration award was contrary to the general policy of the state.

The court, however, said it could not take any further decisions on the matter as the Supreme Court had earlier ruled that it was not possible for the Civil Court to re-decide on matters decided by arbitration.

The Civil Court’s latest ruling in the case stated that there is no reason to prohibit the arbitration award from being accepted as the agreement in the case is not in violation of the general policy of the state.