Macau | Amax owner wins court battle with Suncity owner over control of Beijing Imperial Palace Hotel

Macau (MNA) – The Court of First Instance (TJB) has ruled in favouof Empresa Hoteleira de Macau in its legal action to regain ownership of the New Century Hotel – currently known as Beijing Imperial Palace Hotel – from Victory Success Holdings Limited, according to legal documents Macau News Agency (MNA) had access to.

The documents reveal that on June 15 of this year the court refused the arguments of Victory Success – a company owned by the Suncity Group Holdings Limited CEO Alvin Chau Cheok Wa – against a court injunction issued on May 17 which had returned the ownership of the property to Empresa Hoteleira.

The court ruling also finds that this year Victory Success invaded and occupied the property illegally and “through violence”, and will have to leave the premises.

Empresa Hoteleira was acquired by local businessman Ng Man Sun in 1996, with Mr. Ng also the chairman of Hong Kong-listed Amax International Holdings, a company that holds 24.8 per cent equity interest in Greek Mythology (Macau) Entertainment Group Corporation Ltd., which used to run Greek Mythology Casino in the now shuttered hotel.

In 2016, Empresa Hoteleira announced in a notice in Chinese language newspaper Macao Daily that it had transferred the ownership of the hotel property to a company named Victory Success Holdings Limited on October 22, 2015, stating that the transfer was a settlement of a debt.

At the time Mr. Ng had stated that the transfer announcement was made by Victory Success as a way of ‘influencing’ the outcome of an ongoing ownership lawsuit.

In 2017, Empresa Hoteleira announced that it had returned its property licence to the authorities after the hotel was ordered to close by the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) due to the hotel’s inability to complete renovation works by the proclaimed deadline.

In May, 2018 in statements to Hong Kong news outlet Ming Pao the Executive Director of Suncity, Andrew Lo, claimed the group would take over the Beijing Imperial Hotel with an ongoing lawsuit involving the property and application for a new operation licence in MGTO delaying confirmation of the takeover.

Amax promptly countered these claims and stated that it had obtained a court order from TJB on May 17 considering that Victory Success had invaded the hotel property and was ordered to leave the facilities and return it to its management by May 22.

Protecting the castle

According to the court documents accessed by MNA, Victory Success indeed had obtained ownership of the property on October 22, 2015 through a public record of transfer in lieu of payment with property registration made on October 27 of that year.

However, afterwards Mr. Ng initiated a legal action at TJB to nullify the validity of the payment record that allowed the ownership transfer and requested Victory Success leave the premises.

On March 8 of this year a court decision was issued, with the court having found that Empresa Hoteleira representative pretended to have held a general assembly meeting which in some undisclosed way invalidated the property ownership transfer, with the court considering that the hotel has actually always been under the control of Empresa Hoteleira from October 22, 2015 to April 10, 2018.

In those three years Empresa Hoteleira held its headquarters and commercial and legal documents in the property’s 14th floor.

On February of this year, Empresa Hoteleira discovered that Victory Success intended to demolish illegal constructions in Beijing Imperial, claiming a licence by the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT) issued in 2017 that authorised it to demolish illegal constructions inside the hotel.

According to the court documents, the Beijing Imperial is in a state of ‘abandonment’ with several illegal constructions and metal structure inside ‘risking to fall apart’

Claiming this works would breach a previous injunction order, Empresa Hoteleira requested construction workers be barred from entering and initiating the works, with police having done so on March 20.

The document stated that following this decision 40 men sent by Victory Success invaded violently the hotel on April 9 and threatened private security guards, warning them not to call police authorities before proceeding to change all the locks on the property.

Some of the men remained in the property until the next day with a construction team arriving with a crane and proceeding to build a new gate and fence around the hotel.

Since then, and until the court ordered an injunction, Victory Success maintained private security at the door with orders to not allow any unauthorised person to enter Beijing Imperial.

However, according to the court, it should be Empresa Hoteleira to keep the possession and be responsible for the property security and for paying water and light expenses, which it has done since 2015.

The company was also said to have paid the property lease contract rent between 2015 and 2018, with Empresa Hoteleira ‘being convinced that it is the legitimate owner of the property, having showed so publicly and without resorting to violence’.