Sandals to pursue legal action against Gaston Browne

Sandals to pursue legal action against Gaston Browne
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne (L) and Sandals Resorts owner Butch Stewart (R)

Sandals to pursue legal action against Gaston Browne

The Sandals hotel chain says it intends to pursue legal action against Prime Minister Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, over allegations made in a letter as the war of words between the hotel chain and the island’s government took another twist over accusations of tax withholding.

In a lengthy press statement, Sandals called on Prime Minister Browne to withdraw his June 17th letter, noting “the contents of your letter have gone well beyond Antigua and have been picked up by social media, including Facebook and other international media. The potential irreparable damage is enormous and we are compelled to take the necessary legal steps to protect our sterling reputation and our brand.”

Last weekend, the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) called on the government to honor the agreement signed in 2009, providing a 65 percent concession of the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST) from the room rates the Sandals Grande Resort Hotel collects from its guests. The former UPP administration of then Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, which signed the agreement, said the ABST concession is 100 percent legal.

“This concession was granted in order to secure the construction of the Sandals brand hotel, the economic impact of which is unquestioned,” the UPP said in a statement.

But the matter has come into public attention after the Browne government announced that it was discounting the concession, insisting also there was need for a level playing field within the industry. Prime Minister Browne wrote to the Jamaican hotelier, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, urging him to resume amicable negotiations with the government over ABST. Stewart, however, has said the hotel should be able to keep the tax as part of the seven year concession.

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