The $3.5 billion Baha Mar casino resort in the Bahamas has been surrounded in controversy for the last couple of years as the project came to a halt after developer Sarkis Izmirlian faced financial troubles due to delays, and the secured creditor for the project, the Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM) wasn’t willing to extend more financing. After a long drawn-out legal and political drama, the Supreme Court in the Bahamas has placed seven Baha Mar companies into full liquidation.
Sarkis Izmirlian and his family invested nearly $900 million into the Baha Mar casino resort which included acquiring vast amounts of land as the resort was to be built on a 600-acre site. Now that the Supreme Court has placed seven companies into liquidation and appointed a joint provisional liquidation team, Izmirlian and his family could face massive losses up to $900 million.
According to local media outlet Tribune 242, Wayne Munroe, a reputed QC in the Bahamas stated that he was bewildered by the decisions and actions taken by Sarkis Izmirlian. Munroe questioned the legal advice and counsel that Izmirlian received during the dispute with the ex-Chinese partners and felt that Izmirlian and his family should have agreed to provide a personal guarantee in 2015 that would have allowed them to retain ownership of the casino resort till it was completed and prevented them from suffering major losses. Wayne Munroe represents the Gaming Board in the Bahamas in the capacity of a creditor for the Baha Mar casino resort.
The stalled Baha Mar casino project required an additional $300 million to be completed and EXIM was reportedly willing to fund fifty percent of that amounted provided that the project’s general contractor, China Construction America (CCA) and Izmirlian were willing to put up $75 million each. Izmirlian did not agree to these conditions and ended up filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Izmirlian was not satisfied with conditions set on the deal and wanted to replace CCA claiming shoddy workmanship and purposeful delays.
Justice Ian Winder chose Ed Rahming, an accountant in the Bahamas along with his U.K colleagues Alastair Beveridge and Nicholas Cropper to be a part of the joint provisional liquidation team and act as full liquidators for the Baha Mar group entities. The attorney for the liquidators Alfred Sears QC stated that Izmirlian and his attorneys did not oppose the full liquidation ruling.
In a statement, Alfred Sears QC said “It was an inevitable step in the process because in our system, unlike the US where you have Chapter 11, when you move for the liquidation of a company, unless you get the petition set aside it ultimately leads to the death of the company. In this case, not even Sarkis says the companies shouldn’t be dissolved”.
Sears stated that the only opposition from Izmirlian and his attorneys was over who should be selected as the full liquidators. However the Supreme Court did not favor Izmirlian’s choice and Justice Winder made the final decision. The full liquidation is expected to be completed within the next three to six months. The resort is no scheduled to open by the end of winter tourism season in 2017, which is traditionally in April.