October 28, 2020

Robert De Niro’s Caribbean resort plan draws criticism


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06intransit-deniro1-master675By ELAINE GLUSAC From The New York Times

In the year since the government of Antigua and Barbuda and investors led by the actor announced plans to open a luxury resort on the smaller of the dual-island nation, protests have surfaced and the project has stalled, though the government vows construction will begin this year.

Known as Paradise Found, the project aims to rebuild and expand on the site of the former K Club, a once exclusive resort on Barbuda favored by celebrities including Princess Diana, that has been closed since 2004.

The $250-million proposed development by Mr. De Niro and an Australian investor was announced by the prime minister, Gaston Browne, in November 2014. Put to a vote last March, islanders approved the project, 206-175, in a highly contentious meeting. As reported by The Daily Observer, some voters objected to the amount of land, the length of the lease, now 99 years, and the approval process itself.

“The other issue is the level of concession given by the government to Robert De Niro and James Packer,” said Brenton Henry, director of news for the Observer Media Group, noting a 25-year tax holiday for the resort. Barbudans “believe apart from the creation of some jobs that the benefit to the island may not be so much because of the free waiver.”

Despite opposition from the ’s Movement, the government fast-tracked what is known as the Paradise Found Project Bill, making the agreement binding. Parliament passed the bill last Novemberand it awaits the signature by the Governor-General.

Reached via phone, Trevor Walker, leader of the Barbuda People’s Movement, restated his case against Paradise Found.

“We feel our land is worth more than $6 million for 99 years,” he said. Noting he didn’t oppose the development of the K Club, he added that the government had circumvented standard procedure by passing a national law rather than negotiating via the island’s council. “We feel it’s a dangerous precedent to be setting for one investment.”

Though the group has filed a lawsuit against the bill that is still pending, the prime minister said in a new year’s address that construction of the resort and a new runway would begin in 2016.

Representatives for Mr. De Niro and Mr. Packer did not respond to requests for comment.

IMAGE: Robert De Niro. Credit Julie Glassberg for The New York Times

For more on this story go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/06/travel/robert-de-niro-caribbean-resort.html?_r=0

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