GMR gets respite in Male airport row

GMR gets respite in Male airport row Male: In a relief for GMR, the Maldives' anti-graft watchdog is believed to have ruled out any corruption in the leasing of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport here to the Indian infrastructure major by the previous administration.

The current Maldivian government had in December last year unilaterally terminated a 500 million USD contract given to GMR Group to develop and operate Male Airport, a project awarded to the Indian group by the earlier Mohamed Nasheed administration.

Local media reports today said the Anti-Corruption Commission's (ACC) 61-page investigation report into the alleged corruption in the leasing of the country's only operational international airport to GMR by the previous administration has declared there was no corruption involved in GMR's bid during the evaluation phase of the deal.

According to the probe report, GMR had offered the highest concession fee and scored the highest marks in the bid to develop and operate the airport for 25 years.

The report also said concrete records exist to show that a concession agreement was signed between the government, GMR consortium and Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) which ruled out any grounds for corruption, the media reports said.

ACC further said as the agreement was signed before the amendments to the Financial Act passed by the Parliament was gazetted, there was no grounds to declare it as corruption, the reports added.

The current government in Maldives led by Mohamed Waheed had earlier claimed that GMR was misled by the Nasheed administration to signing a legally unsustainable agreement. The project was awarded in mid-2010.

A GMR Group spokesperson was quoted as having said that it was in the process of studying the report.

The Maldives Airports Company Limited took over operations from GMR on December 7, after the Singapore Supreme Court ruled that the Maldives government had the authority to expropriate the airport from GMR.

Waheed was earlier quoted as having said that from the day of signing, the Maldivian courts and the ACC were receiving complaints and cases against both Nasheed’s government and the GMR venture.
Arbitration proceedings in the airport contract row between Maldives and GMR Group will commence in the middle of next year though an exact date has not been finalised yet.

GMR had previously stated that it would seek USD 800 million as reparation from the Maldivian government. However, the Maldivian government had reiterated its claims that the airport operator agreement with GMR was "void ab initio" (invalid from the outset) and that the government does not have to bear any compensation for the termination.

PTI