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Attorney General called in again over casino resort bid

Published:Friday | October 3, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Keith Russell, land developer and CEO of Amaterra Jamaica Limited. File

Avia Collinder, Business Reporter

Amaterra Jamaica Limited has challenged the decision to disqualify its casino resort bid, a claim that the lawyer for the developer says has since been referred to the Attorney General by the Ministry of Finance for legal advice.

It's the second time that the AG will be considering whether Amaterra breached the proviso for mandatory payment of US$150,000 in bid fees, which was the basis of its disqualification.

Amaterra attorney Harold Brady is trying to keep his client in contention for one of three casino licences up for grabs by investors, who must first qualify for Approved Integrated Resort Development or AIRD status - the process over which the finance ministry is now presiding.

Brady is protesting the designation of the Amaterra's application as non-responsive. The developer initially paid US$22,500 of the fee at the December 2013 bid opening, saying the rest was contingent on a promised meeting with the ministry to clarify the casino gaming regulations. It later paid the other US$127,500 but with instructions to the ministry not to encash the cheque until the meeting was held.

Following Amaterra's disquali-fication in June, Brady wrote to the finance ministry saying there was neither a legal nor factual basis for disqualification. He contends that since Amaterra has not been granted the meeting promised by Financial Secretary Devon Rowe, throwing out the application is unjustified.

Amaterra was one of three AIRD applications set aside, the others being Richard Salm's Casino Royale Jamaica Limited for which the application was withdrawn; and Fiesta Jamaica Limited, which has denied making a formal application.

Richard Trotta's Celebration Jamaica Development Limited is to be located in Montego Bay and the Harmony Cove Limited, co-owned by the Government and Tavistock, to be developed in Trelawny.

This week, Brady and Amaterra CEO Keith Russell also refuted the finance ministry's claim that the two cheques had been returned, but they also confirmed that the cheques had not been encashed

The Ministry of Finance did not respond to requests for comment on Brady's push for a rethink of Amaterra's disqualification, nor was clarification about the cheques forthcoming up to press time, but it acknowledged from Wednesday that the review of the qualified bids by consultant APEC was ongoing.

The process was initially to wrap up by the end of September. The ministry did not give a new deadline.

The principals in Amaterra are Jamaican developer Keith Russell and American Charles Murphy III of Arkansas. Its proposed project spans 850 acres in Duncans, Trelawny.