BELIZE CITY, Wed. Dec. 21, 2016–The $8 million Pickwick Belize building on Newtown Barracks in Belize City which eventually became the short-lived Princess Golden Casino was the subject of a lawsuit at the Supreme Court today. The claim, filed by Pickwick against Princess, seeks damages for breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation.
Attorneys for both sides made oral submissions to buttress their written submissions before Justice Courtenay Abel, who is scheduled to issue his ruling at 9:00 a.m. on January 20, 2017.
This morning, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, representing Pickwick, outlined the claimant’s evidence in the civil suit.
Pickwick’s claim against Princess is for the breach of a 15-year lease and a casino management agreement which the parties had entered. Pickwick contends that the gaming company had signed a lease for their building for use by Princess Golden Casino, but after two years, the casino closed its doors and Princess Entertainment, the parent company, took back its machines and pulled out its staff. The parties had a memorandum of understanding in which Princess had reportedly undertaken to manage the casino on behalf of Pickwick. In court, Princess cited a loss of revenue as the reason for pulling out of the venture.
In his submission, Courtenay explained that when Princess Golden Casino came into being in December 2010, it did not have the finances or the gaming expertise to become operational on its own.
Princess Entertainment, which has both the expertise in gaming and the financial resources, got the new venture started with its own machines and workforce. In addition, two of its directors had signed, the contract with Pickwick.
Golden Princess, therefore, was operating the casino on behalf of Pickwick, which had no casino expertise and which did not have a license to operate a casino; Golden Princess relied on its established parent company, Princess Entertainment, to secure the gaming license, Courtenay said.
Attorney Rodwell Williams, SC, who represented Princess, submitted to the court that Pickwick, which had secured a gaming license in 2008 but had no gaming expertise, decided to approach Princess to set up a casino for them. The operations began in 2013 and ceased by 2015, when Golden Princess pulled out.
Williams also argued that the principal owner of Princess did not sign onto the contract between Golden Princess and Pickwick, and that the finances of Princess Entertainment and Golden Princess did not merge, but were being operated independently.
Golden Princess was a new company and had no expertise in the gaming business, Williams told the court.
After Williams made his submission late in the evening, Courtenay pointed out that Williams did not give an answer on the question of damages that he had raised in his submission. The amount of the damages sought was not specified in court today; however, we understand that it could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Outside of court, Amandala spoke to both attorneys. Courtenay told us that the claim was filed by Pickwick Hotel and Pickwick Club, who are the owners of the land and the hotel at Newtown Barracks.
“They are suing Princess Entertainment and Golden Princess, because of agreements that they entered into, which would have allowed Princess to manage the casino on behalf of Pickwick. They did so for a short period and they suffered losses and they terminated the lease and the agreement. As a result of that, we brought a claim against them saying that they had no legal basis on which to terminate the lease and the agreement, and we are suing them for damages,” Courtenay said.
“In addition to that, we are saying that Mr. Sudu Oscan and Mr. Karagozoglu, the main directors [led] the Pickwick directors to understand that they had the ability to perform and that they had the skills to do so, when in fact they knew that they had substituted an international business company that had no expertise or resources to do the contract and that is why they failed to perform and we are saying that is fraudulent misrepresentation,” said Courtenay.
Courtenay said they are asking for damages in the amount that Pickwick would have earned in the unexpired term of the lease. (There were 13 more years left on the contract.)
Amandala asked attorney Williams what the basis is for his client’s defense against the claim of breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation.
“Well, it’s very simple,” Williams replied, “these claimants, the Pickwick, got a gaming permit dated February 5, 2008 just before the 2008 elections for gaming premises which did not exist, and they had no gaming knowledge or expertise and they simply got it because of their political connection. And they decided they will pawn it off to the only people who have gaming expertise and abilities, Princess across the street. They had no intention of doing gaming themselves.”
Williams said their conspiracy was to simple fence it and to oblige Princess, who wouldn’t want competition across the street, to pay whatever it takes for them not to get somebody else to go into the business.
“Pickwick stole a march and told Princess, if you don’t want to see something across the street, you better take it and take it at this price. Princess took it, and determined eventually that Pickwick never got a license to go beyond 2009. Princess eventually rented the premises and themselves got their own license for gaming and tried to operate for about two years and discovered that it was not viable, simply because the market was too small and can’t sustain two gaming companies in the city of that size. And therefore, they quit the arrangement,” Williams further stated.
Williams explained that Pickwick had previously gotten a judgment against Golden Princess. “But now they want to come against Princess Entertainment and Mr. Karagozoglu and Mr. Oscan, who they say made fraudulent misrepresentation to them. These people made no fraudulent misrepresentation to them,” he said.