Singapore court rules in favour of Male; to decide on compensation

The GMR Group will “seamlessly transfer” the Male international airport to the Maldives Government by Friday.

This was decided at a meeting attended by the Attorney-General, acting Defence Minister and the Tourism Minister, according to Masood Imad, Press Secretary to the Maldivian President.

Earlier, in a blow to the Bangalore-based GMR group, a Singapore court ruled that the Maldives Government had the authority to take back the airport, which was being modernised by a GMR-led joint venture.

The Maldives Airports Company Ltd (MACL) has offered to take any Indian staff who might want to work there after the airport is transferred by the GMR consortium, Imad told Business Line over phone from Male.

On December 1, the Maldives Cabinet asked the consortium to vacate the Male airport by December 7 midnight.

Singapore court view

Imad said that the Singapore Court was of the opinion that the contract allowed MACL to take back the airport from the GMR led joint venture consortium.

The consortium won the contract to modernise the airport in June 2010 when former President Mohamed Nasheed was in power in the island state. The project has been mired in controversy since the start with allegations that unfair means were used to award the contract.

“We will pay compensation to GMR. This will be decided by a court in Singapore. We have heard figures of $700 million, $550 million, $350 million and also $220 million.

“Let the Singapore court decide and we will abide by the judgment. The modernisation of Male airport will now be taken up by MACL. The Maldives Government will again float the tender and get more parties in to take the work forward. The tender will be floated in a transparent manner after consulting investors. The mistakes made during the float of the tender which has been cancelled will not be repeated,” Imad said.

The time when the contract for modernising the airport will be released will depend on the situation on the ground, officials said.

GMR response

A spokesperson of the GMR Group said: “We are studying the oral order passed by the Singapore Supreme Court. We will comment only after studying the final written order.” Commenting on the Singapore Court judgment a Ministry of External Affairs spokesman said, “Fulfilment of legal processes and requirements is what we would like to see in this case. And that all agreements and contract are adhered to legal processes that are required to fulfil them are carried through. The lawyers need to understand the judgement and take a more calibrated view of this.”

The spokesman added that India had made it clear earlier that the GMR project represents the biggest Indian investment in Maldives. The consortium is investing $550 million in the project.

ashwini.phadnis@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 6, 2012)
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