Expat investors being overlooked in hotel mess

Casino operator Luis Milanes Tamayo is leaving a financial mess behind as he closes down his San José casinos.

Being overlooked in the Spanish-language media are the 484 former investors who are mostly expats. They have been trying to get money since 2002 from the man who operated the defunct Savings Unlimited high interest scheme.

Milanes is being evicted from the Hotel Europa downtown, but he also closed down the Europa Casino in the Hotel Radisson and the Royal Dutch Casino on Avenida 2.

The Spanish media is concentrating on the plight of some 250 employes who are being left without jobs at the opening of the Christmas season.

Harold Villegas Román, a vice minister of Trabajo, said Wednesday afternoon that an accord has been reached between Hugo Navas, the Milanes lawyer, and five former employees representing all the workers.

According to the agreement, the employees will receive their unpaid salaries today and they will receive their aguinaldo, the mandatory Christmas bonus, Wednesday.

Because Milanes fired his employees he also is supposed to pay severance, which can be a lot of money in the case of employees who worked for a long time.  Some Hotel Europa employees said they have worked for 15 years.

Milanes did not show up at the ministry meeting and has not been seen this week. A report from Global Trust Firm, S.A., which represents the investors, reported that the casino properties are behind some 360 million colons in operational fees with the security ministry. That is about $678,000.

Milanes offered the hotel and some other properties to investors as part of a conciliation process. So theoretically the trust is holding the property for the investors. But a report Wednesday said that representatives of the trust were stopped from taking over the hotel by police Tuesday.

Some Milanes employees who were not fired were believed to still be inside the hotel. The eviction ruling says they have two more weeks to leave.

The trust was the entity that filed for eviction of the casino, and a judge granted that request.

There is a possibility that the hotel also is behind on utility charges and other fees. He also owes the trust rent for three months. That is at least $39,000.

Considering all the unpaid bills, some investors note that Milanes had little reason to remain in Costa Rica. He still is subject to a judicial order, and a fraud trial in the Savings Unlimited case is scheduled for next year.  When Milanes vanished in November 2002, he was gone for six years.

A committee of investors and lawyers that supervises the trust was expected to meet with Milanes representatives soon.

Fired employees met with Harold Villegas.

Fired employees met with Harold Villegas.

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