Last updated: 09:30 AM ET, Wed August 31 2016

Baha Mar Hopes Obscured By Looming Questions

Hotel & Resort | Brian Major | August 30, 2016

Baha Mar Hopes Obscured By Looming Questions

Photo courtesy of Baha Mar

The long-running Baha Mar saga is either headed toward a favorable conclusion for the $3.5 billion mega resort’s ex-employees and creditors or has assumed another layer of doubt and unanswered questions based on this week’s events.

In a statement issued Sunday, Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie expressed “hope” that former workers, contractors and creditors of the failed mega-resort would have their claims settled by the end of 2016, with ex-employees to be paid by Sept. 30.

Christie also announced the formation of a five-member committee “to administer the claims of Bahamian and other creditors.” The group consists of representatives of the Bahamas government, the Export-Import Bank of China (CEXIM), the project’s court-appointed receivers and China Construction America (CCA).

Christie’s statement follows his announcement last week of an agreement between the government and CEXIM to resume construction at the stalled resort by September. “The bank will shortly place on deposit in the Bahamas the funds necessary…to settle the Bahamian employees’ related claims as outlined by the prime minister during his address to the nation on Aug. 22,” the statement reads.

“The funds will be used “to administer and pay the claims of Bahamian creditors, according to the process which has been indicated,” it continues, adding “further announcements on the specific details of the process will come from the committee.”

Clearly intended to lend a measure of clarity to the tangled Baha Mar imbroglio, Christie’s statement nevertheless leaves several questions unanswered, including how unsecured creditors will be paid, how the claims process will be conducted, the amount of funding designated for claims and the length of the process.

[READMORE} Read More: The Battle for Baha Mar on TravelPulse

Similarly, the Bahamas prime minister failed to provide details on the “world-class hotel and casino operator” he said last week would purchase the now-shuttered resort by the winter of 2017. Christie did not take media questions following the Aug. 22 press briefing and the Bahamas Supreme Court has sealed documents related to the agreement.

In a Nassau Guardian interview, James Smith, a former minister of finance for the Bahamas and a member of the stakeholder committee, said he first learned of his appointment Sunday, the day of the announcement. Smith has yet to speak with government officials regarding his appointment.

Meanwhile, government officials quoted in Bahamas press reports assailed the lack of detailed information following Christie’s announcement. Representatives of Baha Mar’s original developer, Sarkis Izmirlian, on Monday blasted the latest Christie statement, questioning the creditor committee’s composition.

"It is hard to understand how the best interests of unsecured creditors can be served by a committee that specifically includes the Chinese construction company CCA and its executive Tiger Wu,” said BMD Holdings officials in a statement. The Baha Mar stalemate began over allegations of missed construction deadlines and cost overruns the developer attributed to CCA.

“This is the same CCA and Tiger Wu who failed to meet construction deadlines, causing Baha Mar to not be completed and to not open,” the BMD statement adds. “It is the same CCA that created a Baha Mar creditor situation in the first place. The unsecured creditors of Baha Mar have every reason to be concerned about the credibility of this committee and its agenda and to be wary.”

Baha Mar was originally scheduled to debut in December 2014 but was subsequently delayed to March 2015 and then to May 2015 before the property was placed into receivership in October 2015.

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