Sunday 17 February, 2019

RIU Hotels' boss arrested in the US

The main owner and chairman of the renowned Spanish hotel company, Riu, has been arrested and put before the courts in the United States.

Luis Riu Guell heads the company that runs more than 100 hotels across 19 countries, including in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, the US and Jamaica, where a string of resorts have been established over time.

But on Monday, Riu was being temporarily housed in a Miami-Dade jail.

This was after he surrendered to face allegations that he provided free luxury resort stays to Miami Beach’s top building official in exchange for help with the company’s large-scale renovation of its South Beach hotel.

Riu, who flew in from Spain, appeared in a Miami-Dade courtroom on Monday, where he was handcuffed and processed. He was, however, allowed to post a $20,000 bond, which free him up to travel from his home in Mallorca, Spain, to the company’s resorts around the world,: the Miami Herald reported.

The development with Riu came amid a week that involved charges being laid against Miami Beach’s former building official, Mariano Fernandez, along with Riu and the company’s regional vice president, Alejandro Sanchez del Arco, while RIU Hotel and Resorts Florida subsidiary was also charged.

The charge is for unlawful compensation and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation.

Sanchez also surrendered on Monday.

“We are confident that our clients have committed no crime whatsoever,” defence attorney Barry Wax told reporters after Riu was led away from court in handcuffs.

Riu, along with his sister, owns the hotel chain business their grandparents founded in 1953 in Mallorca, and it has since grown to employ more than 28,000 people and serve over four million guests annually, based on information from the company’s website.

The charges in Miami stem from the renovation of the RIU Plaza Hotel, 3101 Collins Ave. The Miami Beach building department was in charge of permitting and inspections on the huge overhaul that took place there between late 2013 and mid-2016.

Prosecutors believe that Fernández helped RIU with permitting for the project, and even allowed the skirting of fines while he regularly solicited free and complimentary rooms for him and his employees.

Based on an arrest warrant, it is alleged that RIU even provided the entire Miami Beach building department with deeply discounted rates for “team-building” retreats to Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

A trail of emails is reportedly central to the charges that were laid.

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