Ministerial Interference Mar Malta’s Casino Tender Process
In the midst of court injunctions, ministerial interference, committee disbandment and cries of foul play, Eden Leisure has been chosen as the preferred bidder for Malta’s newest casino license by Economy Minster Chris Cardona and will begin preparations for the new casino which is part of a €31 million investment into the group’s InterContinental Hotel in St. Julian’s.
Timeline of Events
- Government of Malta puts out a call requesting submissions for those interested in 2 casino license, one for Malta and one for Gozo
- Among the five bidders was eventual winners, the Eden Leisure Group and runners-up, Dragonara Gaming Ltd.
- Government announces the scrapping of the Gozo license due to lack of interest in the tender.
- Dragonara writes to the Privatization Unit, a few days after the opening of the tender process, asking that the process be dealt with swiftly and declaring that they had full faith in professional and ethical way in which the Privatization Unit was administering the tender process.
- In February, the Privatization Unit informs Dragonara that they are one of 2 preferred bidders for the new casino license.
- Dragonara Gaming Ltd. invited to submit a presentation before a committee (the Evaluation and Adjudication Committee) that had been specially appointed to review the proposals. The Committee had been handpicked by the Economy Minister and members of the Privatization Unit and asked to give notification of any conflicts of interest
- The committee encountered problems in its operations and was suspended on request by the Minister of Economy, Chris Cardona, before being disbanded in June 2014 under the guise of a conflict of interest.
- On the 27th of October 2014, the Privatization Unit informed Dragonara Gaming of their decision to select Eden Leisure as the preferred bidder as well as begin negotiations with Eden Leisure for the granting of he casino concession.
- The Privatization Unit informs Dragonara Gaming that, if negotiations with Eden Leisure failed they, as the runners-up, would be able to move forward as the new, preferred bidders.
- The Privatization Unit informs Dragonara that, although they had not been chosen for the initial concession, the Government believes that there was the possibility of granting a second concession, similar to the first, and invited Dragonara to enter into negotiations with the Government regarding the second concession.
- Dragonara Gaming requests a meeting with the Privatization Unit, set for the 31st of November 2014, but the meeting did not take place due to legal actions brought forward by Dragonara Gaming who have claimed that the entire tender process was vitiated since it was not run of the basis of the principles of equity and transparency.
- Dragonara Gaming Limited files proceedings, dated 31-10-2014, requesting that the Courts prevent the Economy Minister, Chris Cardona, from awarding the tender to Eden Leisure Group Limited.
- In a decree dated 31-10-2014 the First Hall of the Civil Court provisionally upheld Dragonara’s request.
- Eden Leisure files proceedings to intervene in the Court hearings, but the motions were denied.
- The Court orders that both parties present their written submissions by the 17th of November 2014.
- The Minister and Attorney General, in a letter to the Courts, stated that there were no grounds for Dragonara’s claims to be upheld since the Ministry had simply, at this stage, chosen a preferred bidder and by no stretch of the imagination could it be held that the process had been terminated and that a final bidder had been selected. They also stated that the fact Dragonara Gaming had submitted a bid, did not automatically give them the right to expect that they be selected.
- The Court points out that the proceedings filed by Dragonara Gaming were for a warrant of prohibitory injunction to be issued in order to prevent the Government from awarding the tender to Eden Leisure
- The Court points out that for such a warrant to be issued, certain criteria had to be met.
- Foremost of these “is that the right of the plaintiff had to result in prima facie from a summary entertainment of the claim without going into the merits,” moreover, the Dragonara “had to prove that the prejudice suffered by the plaintiff, were the warrant not be granted, would be extraordinary”.
- The Court declared that Dragonara Gaming still had, in theory, all legal remedies in hand to ensure that the tender process was administered with transparency and equity.
- The Court declared that it felt that Dragonara Gaming “had not managed to prove its rights on a prima facie basis” and had not managed to satisfy the legal criteria required for such a warrant to be issued.
- Accordingly, Dragonara’s claims were dismissed.
- After the completion of the legal hearings, the Government was given leave by the Court to continue negotiations with Eden Leisure.
More on this story to follow
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