By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
AMID questions surrounding which “world-class hotel and casino operator” will acquire Baha Mar and the concessions awarded to bolster the deal to open it, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson, QC, said there is no need for concern, adding that Bahamians should “trust” that negotiations are being handled by the “capable hands” of Prime Minister Perry Christie.
Despite the prime minister divulging some details of the deal including payment of money owed to contractors and workers among other things, public discourse following his announcement on Monday night focused on his failure to give specifics on the deal’s concessions and the lack of a clear indication of the operator set to buy the $3.5bn project.
He also was not specific regarding the development’s opening date, only saying that its doors were expected to open no later than the end of winter 2017.
However, in responding to questions from The Tribune yesterday, Mrs Maynard-Gibson defended Mr Christie insisting that despite the lack of key information during his address, he remained focused on acting in the best interest of Bahamians.
“Significant details were in fact given,” she told The Tribune following the morning Cabinet session. “We were uncompromising to advance the opportunity for thousands of employees to be paid and the list was given of what they would be paid. That’s a detail. So I do hope that people will recognise the truth is that very significant details were given.
“The negotiations with the government are ongoing and at the appropriate time the very same prime minister that those persons said they trusted will give the appropriate information. I would urge us all to stay focused (and) let us continue on the journey that we are on.
“As you can see that project is in very capable hands. The negotiations led by our prime minister have led to the wonderful outcome that we all hoped and expected to happen.”
Asked whether there was reason for Bahamians to be concerned, Mrs Maynard-Gibson said: “Our prime minister is someone who is a man who has stayed focused. This is a good day for the Bahamas and a good day for Bahamians.
“You look at his entire political history. Thank God he has been focused and assiduous in fighting for Bahamians and nothing has changed now.”
On Monday night, during a nationally televised address, Mr Christie confirmed speculation that an agreement had been reached between the government and the Export-Import (EXIM) Bank of China.
Under the terms of the agreement, Bahamian contractors still owed money will receive a significant portion, if not all, of their claims, while thousands of former Baha Mar employees will receive outstanding amounts due to them, he said.
Mr Christie said the deal had been had been approved by Justice Ian Winder of the Supreme Court around 5pm Monday.
“This agreement represents a signal achievement for the Bahamas and a milestone in the troubled history of Baha Mar,” Mr Christie said from the Cabinet room, flanked by members of his government and others on Monday night.
“For some 20 months, I have been continuously focused, day and night, on efforts to find a solution for the completion of the Baha Mar project. Throughout this period, the government has had three key objectives: firstly to ensure that construction at Baha Mar would be resumed as quickly as possible.
“Secondly, to make every effort to ensure that the casino and casino hotel, the convention centre and its hotel, and the golf course would open before the end of the 2016-2017 winter season and thirdly to ensure that payment of claims to Bahamian creditors and contractors, who previously had little or no prospect of recovering anything from Baha Mar.
“We have achieved all of these objectives,” Mr Christie stressed.
He said that under the heads of terms signed between the government and the EXIM Bank, “remobilisation at Baha Mar will commence immediately.”
“Construction at the site is expected to resume within a few weeks, during the month of September,” he added. “The bank has committed to fund all remaining construction costs to complete the project. China Construction (America) will finish the works, and will resolve outstanding claims with its suppliers and sub-contractors.”
The opening of the 2,000 plus room resort was scheduled for December 2014, but was delayed to March 2015 and again to May 2015.
Baha Mar’s developer Sarkis Izmirlian filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States on June 29, 2015; however the Supreme Court rejected the resort’s application for the matter to be recognised here.
A US judge later threw out the bankruptcy application for Baha Mar’s Bahamian companies, because it was made clear by the Bahamas court that the Delaware judgment would not be recognised. The prime minister claimed that to recognise a judgment of the Delaware court would have compromised the Bahamas’ sovereignty.
Joint provisional liquidators (JPLs) were appointed in September 2015 to protect and prevent the depletion of the resort’s assets before an expected full winding-up of the resort took place.
However, the resort was placed into receivership last October.
Mr Christie has contended that going the route of Chapter 11 proceedings in Delaware would have left Bahamian contractors with the prospects of being paid little to nothing.