Baha Mar’s original developer Sarkis Izmirlian.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel, QC, revealed yesterday the government received a letter from Baha Mar’s original developer Sarkis Izmirlian in response to questions from The Tribune over whether the government would investigate the issuance of a casino licence to the resort’s purchaser Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (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.
According to the source, the letter also referred to multiple agreements, records and documents outside of those, which were already made public regarding Baha Mar.
However, when this newspaper questioned to what the letter referred and its details, Mr Bethel would not say.
“The office received a letter from Mr Sarkis Izmirlian and I have forwarded it to my senior officials for their opinion on the matter,” he told The Tribune in a brief telephone interview.
Asked whether he could say when this letter was received, Mr Bethel said: “I don’t recall the details. It was I think early this week or late last week and as soon as I got it I forwarded for consideration.
“I received a letter from him. I am not at liberty to go into details of whatever he was asking. I forwarded it to officials for consideration. I’m not getting into any details about a letter like that.”
Mr Bethel is expected to make a complete report to Cabinet on Tuesday, a source informed this newspaper.
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.”
Baha Mar’s original developer launched a withering assault on the heads of terms for the $4.2 billion project’s construction completion, variously describing the multi-million-dollar tax incentives granted to the Chinese as “toxic,” “one-sided” and a “wholesale giveaway” that the Bahamas cannot afford given its precarious fiscal position.
He also demanded that the new government “reopen the investigation” into the casino licence granted to Baha Mar’s potential new owner, CTFE, and publicly disclose the Gaming Board’s assessment of its suitability.
Outlining his two key requests, Mr Izmirlian told the Minnis administration in June: “Place a moratorium on the completion of any sale of Baha Mar and other transactions under these agreements.”
This, he argued, would enable the new government and the Bahamian people to assess “the toxicity” of the former Christie administration’s dealings with the Chinese, “and how the best interests of Bahamians can be met.”
The Minnis administration’s position on Baha Mar including its apparent change in tone has placed the government in the line of criticism.
In March Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, then in opposition, pledged to “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.”
However, since being elected to office, the government has seemed to step away from this position with Mr Bethel at one point stating there was nothing in unsealed Baha Mar documents that prompts renegotiation of the deal.