By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Prime Minister Perry Christie yesterday pledged that Baha Mar’s buyer will have to undergo normal due diligence requirements, including a “rigorous” investigation with respect to its casino operations.
Addressing the Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) purchase of the stalled development, Prime Minister Christie said: “CTFE and its operating companies will have to meet the normal due diligence requirements of the Government, including the rigorous investigation and licensing process of the Gaming Board with respect to its casino operations.”
His statement appeared designed to counter fears that the Government, in its desperation to have Baha Mar completed and open before the 2017 general election, will give CTFE ‘a free pass’ on the normal regulatory approvals and permitting processes.
It also appears to be an attempt to ease concerns over CTFE’s casino operations, in particular its links to the Macau gaming scene, which in the past has had ties to Chinese organised crime gangs known as Triads.
These concerns were first raised by former Baha Mar director, Dionisio D’Aguilar’, and appear to be based on a May 18, 2009, report by the US state of New Jersey’s gaming enforcement division, dealing with a proposed Macau casino joint venture between MGM Mirage and the daughter of Macau ‘gaming king’, Stanley Ho.
As disclosed by Tribune Business, that report focused on concerns that Macau’s VIP gaming rooms were vulnerable to exploitation by the Triads.
Mr D’Aguilar’s claims sought to link CTFE’s owners, the Cheng family, and their publicly traded subsidiary, New World Development, to these activities via their investment in Mr Ho’s STDM and SJM companies.
However, the Chengs and CTFE refuted these allegations, and said they were “committed to integrity and good governance in all of our business operations worldwide”.
Mr Christie, meanwhile, yesterday confirmed previous Tribune Business revelations that CTFE was selected as Baha Mar’s buyer from outside the formal sales process run by receivers, Deloitte & Touche.
He said all bids received by the receivers had been evaluated and ultimately rejected. As a result, the China Export-Import Bank subsequently entered into negotiations with other interested parties.
“We were subsequently advised that after careful consideration CTFE emerged as the best and most qualified buyer,” said Mr Christie
He added that through its subsidiary, Rosewood, CTFE has been involved with Baha Mar since 2011. In August 2015, the hotel chain filed a motion in a Delaware court to pull out from the stalled development.
Mr Christie said yesterday that Baha Mar is now back on track for a phased opening in 2017, and completion in the fall.
“Baha Mar is anticipated to generate approximately 315,000 additional air passenger guests to the Bahamas. This is a 19 pr cent increase over the total arrivals in 2015,” the Prime Minister said.