By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts has accused Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian of being “anti-Bahamian,” adding that the developer is “obstructing” the completion and opening of the Cable Beach project for his own gain.
Mr Roberts further accused Mr Izmirlian of attempting to “hold Bahamians hostage” while he “fights his battle with the contractor and tries to dodge paying his loan to the bank.”
Mr Roberts said if Mr Izmirlian “cared for the welfare” of his employees, he would pay the resort’s general contractor, China Construction America (CCA) Bahamas to get the project finished.
Conversely, Mr Roberts said the government’s “sole focus” is to have Baha Mar opened.
“The developer has played his hand,” Mr Roberts said in a statement released Wednesday night. “It is patently clear that he is obstructing the completion and opening of the project and is after his own gain. He declared bankruptcy without notice because he is anti-Bahamian. How else can he explain his decision knowing that the consequence of his bankruptcy filing is to allow him to walk away from the more than $100 million in debt owed to Bahamian creditors and the Bahamian government and the legal contractual obligations to his partners? This is wrong.
“If Izmirlian is pro-Bahamian and cared for the welfare of his employees as he continuously claims in letter after letter, he will pay the contractor and get the project completed and the resort opened. It is only a matter of time before the 2,500 Baha Mar employees pose these very same questions to him.”
He added: “Mr Izmirlian must not hold Bahamians hostage while he fights his battle with the contractor and tries to dodge paying his loan to the bank.”
Baha Mar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a Delaware court blaming CCA for several opening delays, a move which Prime Minister Perry Christie has said came “without notice.” The resort also filed a lawsuit against the parent company of its general contractor in England.
Despite the legal wrangling, the parties involved have engaged in talks to hopefully come to an out of court agreement.
Last month, CCA Bahamas said it offered to invest an additional $100m in Baha Mar with a guarantee of $175m to the Export-Import Bank of China in connection with Exim Bank’s new $200m loan facility.
CCA also said the resort can be completed and opened in time for the winter season if a swift resolution to the current impasse is reached.
That, however, came after Mr Izmirlian sought to strike a deal with the Export-Import Bank of China to cut CCA out of negotiations and use Bahamian contractors to complete the project. Mr Izmirlian insisted that the only way to successfully complete the resort is to end discussions with CCA Bahamas and enter into a 50-50 agreement with China Exim to fund the $400m needed to finish construction and open the resort.
Mr Roberts has a different view, however.
“The developer (Mr Izmirlian) knows full well that if he pays the contractor, the resort can be completed and opened this year in time for the winter season. Further, the contractor has demonstrated its commitment to completing the project by agreeing to a six-figure penalty for daily delays and a seven-figure sum for delays beyond a further agreed completion date.”
Mr Roberts added: “The project is 97 per cent complete. The government and Bahamian people want the project complete for the benefit of Bahamians. Mr Izmirlian should put aside his differences with the contractor and get the three per cent remaining on the project completed.
“If he can’t or won’t get Baha Mar finished and opened, an independent provisional liquidator under the supervision of the independent Bahamian court can get the Baha Mar finished and opened and if urgently appointed, can do so this year. That is the government’s plan. Pure and simple.”
Mr Roberts went on to state that Mr Izmirlian personally signed a contract with the government, with the latter party satisfied that “his billionaire family could afford to pay to complete the project.”
The contract, according to Mr Roberts, stipulates that in the event of cost overruns, Mr Izmirlian is to fund the completion of the project and seek legal redress after the fact. Mr Roberts said the contract was structured that way to “avoid unnecessary delays to the completion and opening of the resort” – the exact opposite of which has happened.
In a memo sent to Baha Mar employees on Tuesday, Mr Izmirlian said in his 13 years working on the project he “never imagined” he would be “fighting” with the government over the $3.5b property.
Mr Izmirlian also lamented that the project has “now been usurped for political reasons.”