The PLP really got itself into a quagmire with Sarkis Izmirlian who was the original developer of the Bahamar project now open and successfully operating on Cable Beach. The project was a four billion dollar investment. There are now 2500 new rooms in the Bahamian hotel inventory that has been falling for years. There are 5000 new jobs available to Bahamians.
When Mr. Ismirlian first started it all seemed rosy, even though there were those who said he was simply in over his head and did not have the capacity to bring the project to a conclusion. Amongst them was the late Butch Kerzner, who ran the Atlantis project, who thought that Mr. Izmirlian simply did not understand the economics of hotel management, nor marketing. Many of the rich folk in Lyford Cay simply thought that Mr. Izmirlian was a fool who clearly had more money than sense.
Perry Christie, the then Prime Minister, in the 2002 to 2007 period agreed to go ahead and it was supported by the Cabinet. The Cabinet was convinced that the room inventory in The Bahamas was falling. The Atlantis project had reached its maturity and was dominating the tourist economy to the possible detriment of the country. There was therefore a need for counter balance and with Cable Beach dying on the vine with the closure of Carnival’s Crystal Palace, there was a need to do something. The project promised 7000 jobs. These were compelling reasons to move ahead.
Mr. Izmirlian got the green light with a controversial concession regarding land that rankled the electorate but on balance the PLP Government thought that it had done what was right. The FNM came to power in 2007, Hubert Ingraham became Prime Minister and was hostile to the project and Mr. Izmirlian in particular. He pronounced the project dead in the water with his public statements and then the casino operator Hurrah’s pulled out quoting the then Prime Minister’s statement as the reason.
Mr. Izmirilian’s company defaulted on its obligations to Scotiabank and left them holding the bag for some 200 million dollars. He was in desperate need of capital and the then Prime Minister with another election coming realized that he needed the project as well and settled new terms and helped the China Export Import Bank refresh the funding for the project. The PLP defended Mr. Izmirlian in the face of withering criticism by Mr. Ingraham.
The PLP came back to power in 2012 and the project was going apace. Only to discover in 2015 that there were problems when defaults, on payments to the lenders started occurring. Despite promises to settle, the defaults continued so that in 2016, the China Construction Company stopped work send sent their worker back home because they could no longer carry the project.
The PLP fell into it again and with the Prime Minister Perry Christie and two of his Ministers Jerome Fitzgerald and Allyson Gibson with Sir Baltron Bethel stepped into the breach and arranged for the China Import Bank to refresh the funding again, even though they (the bank) were sceptical about Mr. Izmirlian’s ability to complete and manage the project. Mr. Izmirlian blamed China Construction and alleged that there was an incestuous relationship between China Export Import Bank and China Construction.
This in the face of the allegation by China Construction that Mr. Izmirlian gave 1300 change orders on the project which was responsible for delays.
Then in the middle of the refinancing negotiations, with the Prime Minister Perry Christie at the table, Mr. Izmirlian without notice formed a company in the US it appears for the sole purpose of filing for bankruptcy in the US. Had he succeeded, he would have been able to walk away from the project debt free, leave all the Bahamian workers and contactors holding the bag and he could start afresh with no debt. He had now Tourism Minister Dionysio D’Aguilar on his Board, mouthing the narrative that it was not his fault and attacking the PLP.
The Courts stepped in appointed receivers and eventually by process of the Courts, the hotel was sold on the open market to new owners and is now open for business. The PLP arranged for all of the Bahamian vendors and workers to get everything that they were owed. That would not have happened under Izmirlian’s diabolical scheme of bankruptcy in the United States. The Courts in the U S rejected his application on the basis that the matter was not connected to The Bahamas and so was not the proper forum for the dispute.
Last week, the churlish Mr. Izmirlian struck again with 256 page allegation in the US Courts claiming that he was defrauded.
The fault said Shakespeare is not in the stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.
The complaint is not worth the paper it is written on. The whole matter has become tiresome and someone should have a frank talk with Mr. Izmirlian about his continued currency in The Bahamas. If he continues to do injury to our country then this is not the place for him to call home.
Number of hits for the week ending Saturday 30th December 2017 up to midnight: 216,183;
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