US Court Trashes China Contractor Over Baha Mar Takeover

June 12, 2023
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A US court has strongly backed entrepreneur Sarkis Izmirlian over the Baha Mar construction scandal, throwing out a Chinese state-owned contractor’s request to dismiss his fraud and breach of contract suit, and backing his claims of contractor misconduct.

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A US court has strongly backed entrepreneur Sarkis Izmirlian over the Baha Mar construction scandal, throwing out a Chinese state-owned contractor’s request to dismiss his fraud and breach of contract suit, and backing his claims of contractor misconduct.

New York State Supreme Court Judge Andrew Borrok in late May found that China Construction America (CCA), a subsidiary of the state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corporation, “actively sought” to expel Izmirlian’s company from the project by disrupting Baha Mar’s finances and supply of labour.

The incendiary finding, which confirms lower court judgments, says in effect that the Chinese government sabotaged its private Bahamian partner’s interests in order to seize control of the project, which CCA and state-run Export-Import Bank of China eventually sold to Hong Kong-based jewelry and gaming giant Chow Tai Fook.

The ruling confirms that the $2.25bn case brought by Izmirlian and his company BML Properties will finally go to a bench trial in August 2024, more than six years after Izmirlian sued CCA. The trial dates were set in February this year.

Judge Borrok ruled that a CCA executive vice president pulled around 700 Chinese workers from the Baha Mar construction site just months before its completion deadline, then misled the then-prime minister that the project could be completed on time.

The pulling of the workers came about “with the express purpose of causing CCA to stop work” and gain leverage over the project, including making demands for more money, Borrok wrote, according to court documents seen by the Bahamas’ Tribune daily.

CCA also “diverted resources and key personnel” to other CCA property interests in the Bahamas, he wrote.

The result for Izmirlian was the loss of his $830m investment in the project, while CCA received hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue to complete it.

"BML Properties lost its entire investment [of an estimated] $830m in tangible and intangible assets, including land and leased facilities, improvements, personal property, contracts, approvals, hotel assets, intellectual property, intangible personal property, casino operations and licence, and cash.

“The defendants, by contrast, made over $700m,” Borrok wrote.

Baha Mar, while still under Izmirlian’s control, filed for bankruptcy protection in the US in mid-2015.

However, under the supervision of the Bahamas Supreme Court, control of the property was transferred to its Chinese financiers and then to a Hong Kong shell company, which sold the property to Chow Tai Fook.

The transfer to Chow Tai Fook was followed by accusations that the government minister responsible for negotiating the deal failed in earlier attempts to get kickbacks from Izmirlian.

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