By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) yesterday accused Baha Mar’s original developer Sarkis Izmirlian of being “vindictive” and “seeking revenge to injure the Bahamas” after it was revealed Mr Izmirlian filed a $2.25 billion damages claim against Baha Mar’s main contractor, China Construction America (CCA).
In a statement, PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell said the most “egregious insult in the entire filing” was the suggestion the bankruptcy of Mr Izmirlian’s operation was somehow influenced by dealings of the PLP administration, which were “secretive and suspect” because the documents were sealed by the Supreme Court.
Mr Mitchell said Mr Izmirlian needs to remember he was “unable to complete the project not once but twice” and he “must take responsibility” for whatever faults are uncovered.
Mr Izmirlian launched the damages claim against CCA, accusing it of “one of the largest construction-based frauds in this hemisphere.”
The $4.2 billion project’s original developer, in a lawsuit filed in the New York State Supreme Court, alleged CCA and its subsidiaries perpetrated a “massive” scheme of “cover up,” “deceit,” and “outright sabotage” to both conceal its failures and “extort more money than it earned”.
The action, filed in the name of Mr Izmirlian’s BML Properties vehicle, claims that the Chinese state-owned construction firm deliberately concealed its intention to use Baha Mar as “a massive training exercise” that ultimately doomed the project to failure.
Besides alleging CCA’s “real intent” was never to complete Baha Mar “on time and on budget, Mr Izmirlian and BML Properties also claim it falsified and misrepresented reports on the mega resort’s construction progress and the size of its workforce.
“Recalling that Izmirlian and his group lost the project because of his own acts and omissions and irresponsibility, the filing of the latest legal action in the United States comes off as vindictive and an act of revenge calculated to injure The Bahamas and its reputation and to cast aspersions on the PLP,” Mr Mitchell, former minister of foreign affairs and immigration, said.
“When one looks at the words of the documents filed, this seems nothing more than a rehash of the narrative which Mr Izmirlian is determined to tell, although the actual facts bear no reality to his narrative. The most egregious insult in the entire filing was the suggestion that the bankruptcy of his operation was somehow influenced by dealings by the government then a PLP administration which were ‘secretive and suspect’ because the documents were sealed by the Supreme Court of The Bahamas.
“This is outrageous. The FNM parroted this nonsense during the campaign only to have to be shown that it was simply untrue. Why is this back in the public domain in official court documents? Reasonable minds can conclude that it is being done to cause injury to The Bahamas and to this important economic project in The Bahamas.”
Mr Mitchell said he believes the filing is an attempt by Mr Izmirlian “to trying to muddy the waters and sully Baha Mar which is now well on the way to success.”
“The first developers of Baha Mar must simply be reminded that they were unable to complete the project not once but twice. They failed in their payments to Scotiabank and then failed again in their responsibilities to the China Export Import Bank. The company suffered a fate no worse than any other mortgagees who cannot pay their bills, the bank realised its security and acted to protect its risk by selling the asset on the open market, in this case supervised by the courts. There was nothing secret or suspect about it,” the statement said.
“When, if as alleged there were issues with construction, surely those were matters which could have been spotted and reconciled long before the company got to the point of bankruptcy. The developer must take responsibility for faults uncovered. The first developers should give it a rest and stop defaming The Bahamas.
“The PLP administration worked hard to ensure a successful development after the first developer failed to deliver on the project. The rescue of the project was carried out in an open and transparent fashion and despite all the propaganda, the good results are there today for all to see.”
Back in June, Tribune Business reported Mr Izmirlian urged the Minnis administration to impose “a moratorium” on the completion of Baha Mar’s sale and warned he was considering legal action against the Christie administration’s “state sponsored discrimination”.
Last month, Attorney General Carl Bethel said the government received a letter from Mr Izmirlian in response to questions from The Tribune over whether the government would investigate the issuance of a casino licence to CTFE.
The letter, said to be dated October 17, and sent to the Office of the Attorney General purportedly called on the Minnis administration to look into the previous government’s April 5, 2017 issuance of the licence, a source told The Tribune.