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Trump name stripped from Panama hotel in property dispute
[PANAMA CITY] Workers pried the name "Trump" off a luxury hotel in Panama City on Monday as its owner said he had succeeded in expelling the American president's family from managing the building.
Cypriot businessman Orestes Fintiklis, who owns a majority of the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama, said it was "a commercial dispute that just spun out of control, and today this dispute has been settled by the judges and the authorities in this country." Workers removed the Trump logo from the entrance to the luxury complex, as police stood guard and a Panamanian court official looked on.
Tourists later snapped pictures in front of the newly Trump-less sign, where a faint imprint of the president's name was still visible.
"Today, Panama has showcased stable institutions, rule of law and investor-friendly legal framework," Mr Fintiklis said in a brief statement to the press.
The Trump Organization, however, insisted the decision was temporary, pending final resolution of the dispute.
"There has been absolutely no determination whatsoever by any court or other tribunal as to the status of the management agreement," it said.
"Trump Hotels remains fully confident that it will not only prevail, but recover all of its damages, costs and attorneys' fees, including those... arising from today's events."
The row erupted last month when Mr Fintiklis, a Miami-based investor who last year became owner of most units in the building through a company he controls, said he wanted to boot the Trump Organization out before its management contract was up, remove the Trump name and rebrand the building.
In lawsuits lodged in the United States, Mr Fintiklis alleged a decline in occupancy in the hotel. The Trump Organization hit back, claiming Mr Fintiklis was breaching his contractual commitments as owner.
Mr Fintiklis complained to the Panamanian prosecutors' office that Trump Organization employees were barring him access to the units he owns in the sail-shaped complex, which also boasts a casino, shops, a spa and small private beach.
The US$430 million complex was inaugurated in 2011 by Mr Trump and Panama's president at the time, Ricardo Martinelli.
Martinelli is currently on bail in Miami fighting extradition to Panama, where he is charged with corruption and spying.
The hotel and most of the apartments were sold last year to Fintiklis's Ithaca Capital Partners, which is based in Miami.
As part of the deal, the administration of the hotel initially remained in the hands of the Trump Organization, run by the president's two sons since he took office last year.
Trump Hotels last week accused Mr Fintiklis of "fraud" and using "mafia-style tactics" to force its administration staff out of the disputed building.
There have been reports of physical confrontations between Trump staff and the new owner and his team.
Last month, Panamanian prosecutors announced they were opening an investigation into the case following complaints by Mr Fintiklis that he had been prevented from entering the building.
At its opening, the hotel's prices were listed at S$300 a night, with apartment prices ranging from S$250,000 to S$1 million.