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St. Maarten Government concerned about Emilio Wilson lien

St. Maarten – “What I would really hate is for that property to be caught up in litigation for years,” Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said on Monday as she spoke on the lien that the principals of Rain Forest Adventures St. Maarten (RFA) have put on the Emilio Wilson Estate which the government offered to buy for 17 million dollars two weeks ago.

The prime minister said that the government would do everything in its power to avoid the situation be dragged through the courts. Wescot-Williams and Vice Prime Minister William Marlin met with RFA on Friday where the investors outlined their concerns.“I will now evaluate the situation and see what can be done,” the prime minister said.

Rain Forest Adventure St. Maarten N.V. and Rain Forest Tram Ltd. – the companies that had an agreement to develop a commercial attraction park at the estate, put a lien on the property on August 3. This means that the government will not be able to take ownership until the legal dispute between the owners and Rain Forest has been resolved. Rain Forest claims between $12 and $15.5 million in damages because the deal threatens to fall through.

The document, drawn up by the law office of VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne reveals that Rain Forest entered into a cooperation agreement with Brookson already in June 2010 for the development of a commercial adventure park. In October of that year Rain Forest established the local entity RFA. Brookson got a 25 percent stake in this company.

Part of the estate was to be developed as a residential area by Brookson. Parties set the value for the part of the estate that would be brought into the RFA-company at $4 million. In exchange for the land, Brookson would receive $500,000 in an escrow account, 25 percent of the company’s shares valued at $2,587,500 and $912,500 in 17 installments to service the outstanding mortgage.

When Brookson learned, according to the court documents, that he would not get a permit to develop the residential area, he entered into negotiations with the government about selling this part of the estate to them. The government apparently issued a letter of intent, but the terms were not agreeable to Brookson.

Rainforest did several proposals that are not detailed in the court papers to Brookson designed to prevent that the adventure park’s realization would be put in jeopardy. In the meantime, the local company received a building permit in April of this year. Parties then reached an agreement about the non-specified proposals and entered into a new agreement in May.

But on May 10, a day after Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams hand delivered the resignation of her cabinet to Governor drs. Eugène Holiday things changed. In a letter dated May 10, Rain Forest outlined concrete proposals to Brookson and to the former owners Diggs and Weinstock for the realization of the adventure park. Brookson agreed with the proposal, the court document states.

Rain Forest maintains that it is entitled to take ownership of the part of the estate as it is described in the cooperation agreement. The company says it is entitled to compensation if Brookson does not abide by the agreement and does not deliver the land. The company puts the value of the portion of land it would get to develop the attraction park at $12 million since the 25 percent stake Brookson would get has been valued at $4 million. But with the bid by the government the value of the land has suddenly gone up to $17 million.Rain Forest will also claim compensation for expenditures it has already made for the project. It will also miss out on revenue – projected at more than $11 million between 2014 and 2020. The Court in First Instance gave its permission for the lien last week Friday on the condition that Rain Forest files a lawsuit within a fortnight.

Mayesi Hammoud, attorney at law at the law firm VanEps Kunneman VanDoorne, assisted Rain Forest Adventure St. Maarten N.V. and Rain Forest Tram Ltd.

Source: Today Newspaper 16 August 2012

Thursday, 16 August 2012 00:00

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