Panama declines to intervene to assist Trump with dispute

‘ROUTINE MATTER’::The Trump Organization said a letter asking Varela to help in the fight over the hotel was customary and did not require authorization


Wed, Apr 11, 2018 - Page 7

The Panamanian government on Monday said it would not intervene in a dispute between the Trump Organization and a new majority investor in a hotel in the country’s capital, after the US president’s family business asked for help.

Last month, legal representatives of the Trump Organization wrote to Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela asking him to help the group in its fight over ownership of the 70-floor hotel complex, according to a letter seen by reporters.

The letter from a law firm, dated March 22, asks Varela to use his influence and alleges that its due process rights had been violated.

However, Panamanian Vice President Isabel Saint Malo on Monday said that getting involved in the dispute would be outside the government’s remit.

“I don’t think that the executive branch has a position to take while this issue is in process in the judicial branch,” Saint Malo told reporters.

Asked for comment, the Trump Organization sent a statement from its representatives, confirming that the letter was sent, but rejecting any assertion that the letter sought to “pressure” the president or any other official.

“The drafting of this type of letter was such a routine matter for our firm that the authorization of Trump Organization for its delivery was not requested,” the statement said, adding that no one at the Trump Organization knew about it until Monday.

The dispute surrounding the Trump-branded hotel has shone a fresh light on the business dealings of US President Donald Trump.

When it was completed in 2011, the building in Panama City was Trump’s first international hotel venture, a waterfront complex including apartments and a casino that has earned him between US$30 million and US$50 million.

Trump licensed his brand to the luxury project and provided hotel management.

However, workers last month removed the Trump name from the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower after the Trump Organization lost control of administration of the property.

The letter alleges that legal decisions contravened a 1983 trade deal designed to protect US investors in Panama.

The case is now in international arbitration.