15, Number 12
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Martinelli moves against Brisas de Amador
by Eric Jackson, photos by the Presidencia
The grabbing of public assets, particularly beachfront properties, by politically connected individuals had been an accelerating process under the Moscoso and Torrijos administrations. The sordid deals to get choice properties in the former Canal Zone was a hallmark of the old Interoceanic Regional Authority (ARI) under the Pérez Balladares and Moscoso administrations, and the Torrijos administration more or less ratified both the questionable acquisitions and the notion that once acquired, those in possession need not pay the government as agreed.
And so it was with Las Brisas de Amador SA, a company said to be controlled by one Abraham Hasky (but due to Panama's corporate secrecy laws has an unverifiable ownership). The pitch for Brisas de Amador in the glitzy "buy now sight unseen" websites went like this:
Brisas de Amador promotional drawing from a real estate hype website
Rising to the top of Perico Island on the tip of the Amador Causeway will be the Las Brisas de Amador community. Its Causeway Towers will soon become part of a tranquil resort and marina complex just minutes away from bustling Panama City.
The Las Brisas de Amador community will include:
* Las Brisas de
Amador 10 residential buildings
The heart of Las Brisas de Amador will be its marina, able to accommodate super yachts. Expected to become a popular cruise stop, the marina will feature duty-free stores and a water taxi area.
But there was no concession, nor was there an approved environmental impact statement, for the landfill, about 2.8 hectares of which had been done. There was no concession, nor was there an approved environmental impact statement, for the luxury condos, which were being offered in prices ranging from $426,000 to $1.5 million. ("Buyers are urged to act quickly," the hype went.)
The project took a detour on July 13, when President Martinelli, having similarly invaded Jean Figali's illegal marina a week earlier, showed up on Isla Perico with cops, government ministers, reporters and a demolition crew in tow. The Brisas de Amador landfill was marked off as public property and the buildings on it were torn down. The government advised that the developers could pay the millions that they owe the government to keep their concession as it was granted, but that the landfill is a separate, non-negotiable matter.
To be seen is whether this government will allow the concession to be altered to add the condos. There is insufficient water, sewer or road infrastructure to properly serve a development of this size in this place. It could be a defining case with regard to the things that developers will be able to get away with in the Martinelli years.
While claiming the landfill as government property and demolishing the beginnings of a dock infrastructure that would have allowed boats to slip in and out without what or whom was loaded onto them being observed, Martinelli talked in general terms about similar situations. Herman Bern's Playa Bonita resort, obtained from ARI in a procedure the Supreme Court held illegal and his government-funded parking lot at the Hotel Miramar, and the Club de Yates y Pesca installations on the Cinta Costera are thought to be on Martinelli's hit list. Then there are millions of dollars worth of back payments from other Amador concessionaires.
So who can pay? It appears that the Amador concessions were by and large overpriced, with concessionaires having made big promises without apparently intending to pay as agreed. But were certain public officials paid large but much smaller amounts for things to proceed as they did? It's the common suspicion on the street, but something that's likely to be impossible to prove if it's true. In any case, look for some Amador concessions to be abandoned, foreclosed or sold on unfavorable terms in the months to come. The factor that's likely to limit the bargain hunting will be the completion of the Museum of Biodiversity, a Frank Gehry building that will quickly become the symbol of Panama City and a boost to nearby property values.
A would-be covered dock and smuggler's dream
Demolition without prior warning
Down it goes...
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Luxury apartment rentals in Casco Viejo, Panama City
2009 by Eric Jackson
email: firstname.lastname@example.org or
phone: (507) 6-632-6343