DUP’s Ian Paisley faces questions over who paid for trips to the Maldives

Ian Paisley is facing fresh questions over a number of trips he reportedly took to the Maldives.

Last December BBC Spotlight raised queries over who paid for a luxury holiday the DUP MP and his family took to the Coco Bodu Hithi resort in the nation in 2016.

Mr Paisley said then that he paid for part of the holiday and the rest was paid for by a friend.

He did not reveal the identity of this friend, but added that the friend was unconnected with his work and has received no benefit as a result of his work.

Lyndsey Telford
Lyndsey Telford

On Tuesday night, a follow-up BBC Spotlight programme, Paisley In Paradise Revisited, reported that the friend was Dr Mohamed Shainee, who at the time of Mr Paisley’s trip to Coco Bodu Hithi was the Maldives Fisheries and Agriculture Minister.

Dr Shainee told the programme he did not pay for the trip.

However the programme reported that in a statement, Sunland Hotels which owns the resort, told them: “In 2016, Mohamed Shainee requested Sunland Hotels co-owner Hussain Hilmy for a rate at one of the company’s resorts … Shainee settled the payment for Ian Paisley’s stay at the head office”.

Barrister Gavin Millar QC told Spotlight: “If it’s correct, in light of everything we know about his dealings with the government, that a government minister negotiated a rate at this holiday resort for Mr Paisley and his family and then subsequently paid the bill for the accommodation, that is unquestionably an example of a gift which would generate the obligation to register it and tell the public about it.

“He has to produce some tangible evidence to show that what you’ve found is not correct and the government minister didn’t pay for it.”

Tonight on #SpotlightNI – Paisley in Paradise: Revisited. 10:35, @BBCOneNI.@LyndseyTelford reporting. pic.twitter.com/1kQbyjGWgu

— BBC Spotlight NI (@BBCSpotlightNI) June 25, 2019

BBC Spotlight also raised questions about other visits it reported that Mr Paisley made to the Maldives.

One of these trips, in February 2016 with the All-Party British-Maldives Parliamentary Group, was registered with the House of Commons Register of Interests.

But the other two trips – one to Kandolhu resort with his family in April 2014 and a two-night stay in January 2016 at Paradise Island resort – were not declared.

The trips would only require to be declared if they were gifted to the MP.

Spotlight reported that a source told them the trip to Kandolhu was complimentary.

Mr Paisley did not respond to BBC Spotlight over these questions, and did not respond when approached by Press Association.

Spotlight also approached the DUP over whether an announced investigation into Mr Paisley’s visit to the Coco Bodu Hithi resort had reached a conclusion.

A DUP spokesman said: “Discipline is an internal party matter. We do not give a running commentary. All members are treated fairly and have a right to due process.”

Mr Paisley was suspended from the House of Commons in 2018 for 30 days for “serious misconduct” for failing to declare two family holidays to Sri Lanka in 2013.

Ian Paisley
Ian Paisley

He referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

The Commissioner, Kathryn Stone, found that Mr Paisley had failed to properly declare two holidays and engaged in paid advocacy for the Sri Lankan government.

Parliament suspended Mr Paisley from the House of Commons for 30 days over the matter.

However, a petition to trigger a by-election in his North Antrim constituency fell short by 444 votes.

On his return to the House of Commons following his suspension, he said: “A smaller man than me would have crumbled.”

Mr Paisley is the son of veteran politician Ian Paisley, who was one of the founders of the DUP, and held the North Antrim Westminster seat since 1970.