Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Indian company linked to ‘arms dealer’ invited to build Maldives airport

New Delhi: An “invitation” to an Indian company to build an international airport in the Maldives has generated controversy, with the opposition in Male questioning antecedents of its promoters who are facing criminal charges.

A letter by Maldivian tourism minister Moosa Zameer inviting Olialia India Private Limited to submit a proposal under a 50-year ‘build, operate and transfer’ (BOT) model has gone viral on social media. The Indian company is backed by Anca Verma, the wife of controversial businessman Abhishek Verma.

The couple, who is facing serious charges such as violation of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and money laundering to broker arms deals, is currently out on bail. Regular hearings are on in connection with different cases in New Delhi, with the CBI recently appealing in the high court against the dismissal of the of its cases involving German defence company, Rheinmetall.

The ambitious plan, fronted by Anca, is to build a new airport with dual runways by dredging a lagoon. The company also said it has plans to set up a new resort in the Maldives. Investments by Indian companies in Maldives have come under stress in the past, with the government cancelling a contract with GMR to develop the existing international airport in Male.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has raised a red flag over the invitation letter to Anca Verma. “Given President Abdulla Yameen’s well-documented links to the criminal underworld, reports about his underhand deals with arms dealers and money launderers are disturbing, but not surprising,” Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, MDP’s international spokesman, told ThePrint.
Olialia India confirmed that it has been invited to set up a new airport in Maldives but said that Abhishek Verma had nothing to do with the project. “Mrs Anca Verma is the group chairperson of Olialia World and is driving the airport project in Maldives, Olialia Island project, as well as Olialia Air project in Europe. Mr Abhishek Verma is not involved in the above-mentioned projects in Maldives,” company spokesperson Ahmed Shareef said.
16/10/17 Manu Pubby/Print