The Straz Foundation, according to an article written by Janell Irwin Talor, is suing Palm Spring Hotel in Monrovia, Liberia. The lawsuit seeks $4.8 million to repay principal and interest that went unpaid in a loan the Straz Foundation provided for the hotel in 2018.
Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Accordingly, the 2018 loan agreement revised a previous loan and promised up to $4.6 million to support the operation of the hotel. The loan carried a five-year term with an annual interest rate of 14 percent, which by American standards, is high.
The hotel reportedly stopped making payments on the loan at the end of 2018, pushing the hotel into default.
If the overdue payments are not made, Straz’s foundation could seize Palm Spring Resort’s property including slot machines and a roulette wheel as well as the hotel’s license to operate the hotel and casino.
The Straz Foundation is a non-profit headquartered in Tampa that reports more than $70 million in assets. According to financial disclosures filed as part of Straz’s unsuccessful mayoral bid earlier this year, Straz’s network is $425 million.
The wealthy philanthropist-turned candidate drew criticism during his campaign when it was uncovered that he owned a more than $1 million mausoleum featuring marble floors and benches and stained glass images of a Rolls Royce grille and a private jet.
Questions also arose during the campaign about another of the Straz Foundation’s seemingly unusual investments — a stake in the Bank of Nevis. The bank is considered a possible offshore tax haven.
Asked about it during his campaign, Straz explained that the investment was aimed at providing support to the Caribbean Island’s population and it was a significant location because it’s the ancestral family home of Straz’s wife, Catherine Lowry Straz.
Meanwhile, a fortnight ago, it was reported in the local media that several gaming operators in the country were supposedly caught in the preliminary findings of the General Auditing Commission(GAC) for not paying government taxes and required license fees as per the law that created the National Lottery Authority(NLA).
The gaming entities that seem to be caught in the dragnet of the GAC include: Palm Springs Resort and its Sports Betting Company GoBet231. The audit finds that between 2015-2019, Palm Springs and GoBet231 owe government collectively an alarming US$426,000.00. Additionally, the audit uncovered that both companies failed the financial solvency test, had no due diligence done and continues to operate without a Board’s Resolution from the NLA’s Board as required by law. A critical observation from the Auditors is that there is no documentary evidence that Palm Springs’ GoBet231 Sports Betting Company met the required investment portfolio and financial capacity to cover liabilities which is a requirement by law.
GOBET 231 is a newly operating Sports Betting Company which is owned by Palm Springs Resort.
It can be recalled that few months ago, scores of employees and other workers barricaded the premises of Palm Spring Resort in demand of what they called their “prolonged salaries” and others benefits as well as explanation into the mysterious death of a lady at the hotel recently.
The aggrieved employees protest attracted huge attention of bystanders and commuters who were eagerly observing the peaceful protest.
During the process, several protesters were seen displaying their placards, which read: “Palm Spring needs to stop modern day slavery in Liberia, and government officials please do not compromise our interest for this controversial Lebanese National called Najib Kammah who is involved in plenty shady deals.”
Other placards also showcased: “Shutdown this 419 business and the CEO Najib Kamand need to be arrested and subsequently prosecuted by the police and the court.”
The agitating employees protest sent a clear signal to the hotel that is always in the center of controversy.