Group says resorts tied to Maldives coup

Feb. 17, 2012 at 12:10 PM

LONDON, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- A coup in Maldives was financed by former regime officials tied to the country's lucrative tourism industry, a pro-democracy group claims.

Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed was ousted in an apparent coup last week. U.N. officials called on all sides to find a peaceful solution to the crisis as skirmishes continue in the capital Male.

Pro-democracy group Friends of Maldives, based in Britain, claims the coup was backed by resort owners and called on travelers to avoid the area until the country has new elections, the Daily Telegraph newspaper in London reports.

President Mohammed Hassan, the former vice president, is suspected of appointing former members of autocratic leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's administration who own island resorts.

"A boycott of all the country's resorts would be unnecessarily damaging but we have been investigating those owners who are clearly involved," David Hardingham, founder of Friends of Maldives, told the newspaper.

Hardingham said that before Nasheed took office in 2008, after ousting Gayoom, none of the resort owners were taxed.

"He was attempting to introduce income tax for the first time and that would have meant resort owners having to file tax returns," he said.

A former presidential adviser told the British newspaper on condition of anonymity that resort owners in Maldives were the "godfathers" of the country's politics.

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