Controversial Strada’s Newport ordered to clear premises

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A 25-day notice has been issued by the Planning Ministry to Strada Pvt. Ltd. to vacate the Newport View restaurant and Bridge Viewing Platform.

In September 2016, a 10,000 square feet area was controversially leased to Strada under director Zahid Rameez who was a council member of PPM at that time. This project was awarded to build food outlets and to give public the chance to observe, a platform to view the construction site of the Sinmale bridge.

The Strada deal was called off when Pres. Solih took over the office in 2018. This followed with the numerous allegations and corruption reports that came to light after ACC’s relentless efforts to let people know about the company’s illegal activities since 2015.

Built as part of the project, the Newport restaurant opened.

Strada’s Downfall: The anti-corruption watchdog had already dug some dirt on them in the past. In an investigation probed by the ACC in 2015 on grounds of allegations of corruptions, it was found out that a catering deal was awarded to Strada by the then government. It was reported that the company’s restaurant lacked experience to cater such an event, but the minister never checked if they had the capacity.

The Anti-Corruption Commission forwarded charges of abuse of power to unlawfully benefit a third party, but no one was ever held responsible for it. Yameen’s government decision to pay MVR14.4 million (US$933,852) to Strada as compensation for the relocation of the Chaitime beverage shop was also questioned. ACC said it was an attempt to provide undue benefit, concluded in a report released with preliminary findings.

Strada agreed to build a bridge viewing platform with a food outlet and parking area. The agreement did not include developing Chaitime, but the infrastructure ministry approved building. The company further proposed changes to the project, adding some new constructional plans in exchange for extending their lease agreement and offered to spend MVR 2 million. The amendment was signed on April 2017.

In March 2018, the infrastructure ministry asked Strada to relocate Chaitime. This time, Strada proposed building a two-storey event complex with a terrace in the space designated for the cinema and lounge and proposed Chaitime to be relocated to the ground floor. This was also approved, and a second amendment was signed on April 2018, but Strada was still lacking behind on terms of paying rents.

Strada gets sued over MVR 1 million owed as unpaid rent and fines. Later in 2019, the Attorney General’s office sought a court order against Strada, which operated the Newport restaurant franchise for failing to pay the rent. A 30-day eviction notice period was also served in the same year after the lease agreement terminated, citing breach of contract over failure to pay lease and fines. 

However, Strada failed to vacate the premises which led to a lodge of lawsuit against them with the Civil Court. In September 2019, the court ruled against Strada, ordering the company to vacate the premises within 15 days and was also ordered to pay MVR 1.15 million in lease payments and fines up until it vacates the land, but the decision was appealed.

The Court ruled to uphold the original ruling in Oct 2021.

Planning Ministry issued a notice on 17th Jan 2021 to Strada, ordering the company to vacate the premises within 25 days and that failure to comply by the terms will not bear any responsibilities by them for any damages caused to a third party.

Strada’s director Zahid Rameez has also been entwined with very controversial cases in the past. He was questioned regarding dead threats he made on social media against Yameen Rasheed who was found stabbed to death in 2017.

As more information resurfaces, connecting the dots— this looks like a far-fetched plan, executed very well with people in power encouraging the company’s corrupted ways. Moreover, the previous ruling government’s involvement should not be seen at bay and must be probed and investigated. The people who made the decisions, the fundings sanctioned and the people pardoned because of abuse of power must be questioned.