Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Judge, police help oust Trump Hotels from Panama property

Published:Tuesday | March 6, 2018 | 12:00 AMAP

 

Executives with President Donald Trump's family hotel business on Monday abandoned the management offices of a luxury hotel in Panama that has been the scene of a tense, 12-day standoff over a business dispute with the hotel's owners. Trump's security guards also left the property.

The action took place as a Panamanian judicial official and armed police escorted into the offices the owner of most of the units of the 70-story, Trump-branded hotel in Panama City. The legal dispute involving Trump's company was expected to continue, but Monday's developments meant that Trump had effectively surrendered physical control of the property.

"This was purely a commercial dispute that just spun out of control," said Orestes Fintiklis, a private equity investor and the head of the hotel's owners' association, shortly before entering the hotel management's offices. "And today this dispute has been settled by the authorities and the judges of this country."

A Panamanian judicial official told the AP a statement would come later in the day.

The intervention resolves the standoff between Trump's family hotel business and Fintiklis, who sought to take physical control of the property on behalf of the hotel owners. Though the owners tried to fire Trump's company last year, the Trump Organization had disputed the termination as legally invalid — and refused to hand over the property.

Already the subject of litigation and arbitration complaints, the dispute escalated last month, when the Miami-based Fintiklis came to the property with termination notices for Trump's management team, only to be turned back by Trump security officials.

A legal complaint filed by Fintiklis said that, late that same evening, he and others in his party witnessed Trump's management team destroying hotel documents, which Trump officials have denied.

For more than a week, Trump's hotel business staved off efforts by Fintiklis and his allies to gain control of the property, with rival security teams skirmishing over physical control of key infrastructure including the administrative offices and the hotel's closed-caption security system, which was housed in the condo association within the same building. Initially invited by Trump's managers, the Panamanian police repeatedly visited the hotel to keep the peace.

The fight ended quietly when a Panamanian judicial official accompanied by police came to help enforce Fintiklis' claim to the property. More than a half dozen of Trump's security officials were seen leaving the hotel. The whereabouts of the Trump hotel management team could not be immediately determined, but Fintiklis declared the fight over.

"Today Panama has made us proud," he said, adding that he intended to apply for Panamanian citizenship.

A representative of the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.