THE government has no official response to former Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian’s plea for a moratorium on the sale process of the beleaguered resort at this time, Press Secretary Anthony Newbold said yesterday, adding that the situation is still being evaluated.
Mr Newbold stressed that the sale was a “very complicated situation” still under review by the government, and said he could not confirm reports that Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis had met with the former developer or his associates.
“There has been no official reaction to the suggestion because the contracts and the entire situation is still being evaluated,” Mr Newbold said.
“I’m told it’s a very complex situation. Undoubtedly, I will say though, the Bahamian people have a vested interest in the success of that development and we believe that now is the time to ensure that any safeguards that need to be put in place, now is the time to do that in this process.”
The statement from Mr Izmirlian’s BMD Holdings on Sunday called for the investigation undertaken by the Gaming Board to grant Chow Tai Fook Enterprise’s casino licence to be reopened, and its findings made public; and further stated that BMD is now considering legal options against the parties involved in the heads of terms between the Export Import Bank of China (CEXIM), China State Construction and the government.
At yesterday’s press briefing, Mr Newbold was asked whether Mr Izmirlian’s call for the resort’s sale process to be halted was under consideration given Dr Minnis’ pre-election pledge to “execute a real sale” of the property.
In March, Dr Minnis posted on Facebook that his party would “engage and execute a real sale of Baha Mar to a qualified and respectable purchaser who believes in Bahamians; a purchaser who will utilise only Bahamian labour to complete the resort, and will put Bahamians back to work with real jobs as quickly as possible.”
To this Mr Newbold said: “(Dr Minnis) he pledged to execute a real sale because nobody knew including the prime minister at that time, it appeared as if there was no sale, nobody knew, and one of the things that we ought to keep sight of is that because nobody knew, everybody wanted to know why are you sealing this deal?
“Let’s see what this deal is about, you don’t know what’s in it, nobody knows what’s in it, nobody even knew if there was a sale for sure. Nobody believed what the former administration told them, bottom line.”
Pressed specifically on Dr Minnis’ pledge for only Bahamian labour, Mr Newbold said: “The prime minister believes in laws, he does not know that there is a way for him to not follow the law, you got to follow the law, that’s part of trying to unseal this deal, eventually unseal the deal, so you know what’s in it.
He continued: “It’s a great idea and as many Bahamians as possible will be hired at Baha Mar, but the law is the law.”
The Christie administration released the heads of agreement—which detailed many concessions given to the property—with Baha Mar and the government at the end of April.
The Free National Movement government released the heads of terms between the Export Import Bank of China (CEXIM), China State Construction and the government last week.
Asked about the documents last Thursday, Attorney General Carl Bethel told The Tribune that “there is nothing that calls for renegotiation. There is nothing particularly unusual in the documents.”
When asked whether those comments were made prematurely, Mr Newbold said: “No official response. I’ve been told, the prime minister has been told, it is a very complicated situation, still being evaluated. You have to evaluate it, it has to be evaluated properly. This government has an obligation to make sure it happens properly and correctly the way it ought to be.”
Asked for an update on the sale process, Mr Newbold said: “It is still the same, there has been no movement with it, the government has done nothing with it. It has to be evaluated properly but the government has done nothing with Baha Mar up to this point.
Mr Newbold added that Dr Minnis had a good meeting with Atlantis President Howard C. Karawan on Monday, and received an update on the property’s efforts to rebrand itself and integrate more Bahamian culture into its offerings.