The scam saw dozens of Maldivian islands and lagoons leased to property developers in deals that sidestepped a requirement, then in the country’s tourism law, that leases be given out via a public bidding process. Investors negotiated leases directly with the then-tourism minister, Adeeb, but then signed leases with and paid money to the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC), a state company that had no legally mandated role in leasing out islands. The money was then diverted from the MMPRC to private bank accounts.
The islands and lagoons handed out via the scheme ended up with local and international tourism developers – many of whom are part of, or connected to, the country’s elite.
Many of these spectacular sites have since been developed into resorts. Maldivian tourism giants such as Crown Champa, Universal Resorts, and Sun Siyam have built resorts under their own house brands. International chains, such as