- Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
- A wild dispute between a hotel owner and the Trump Organization is entering its fifth day.
- Panamanian investigators promised to probe the Trump Organization, according to The Washington Post.
- It could leave President Donald Trump in a tricky spot.
There’s a wild battle going on in Panama between the owner of the local Trump International Hotel and the Trump Organization.
On Monday, that battle led to Panama’s federal prosecutors promising to open a probe into the Trump Organization. If the investigation does begin, would mark the first time a foreign government opened such a probe into President Donald Trump’s namesake business – one in which the president’s level of involvement and influence is murky even after he passed control off to his two adult sons prior to taking office in January.
The dispute broke out into the open on Thursday afternoon when Orestes Fintiklis, the majority owner of the hotel, arrived in the lobby of the building with associates. His aim was to fire the Trump Organization, which has managed the hotel since its 2011 opening.
The Trump Organization, however, refused to leave.
In the days since, police have been called to the property multiple times to, as the Associated Press reported, “keep the peace.” Meanwhile, after Fintiklis and his associates hand-delivered termination notices to Trump Organization employees at the hotel on Thursday, witnesses told the wire service they saw Trump executives moving files to a room, where they would be shredded. The witnesses told the AP that they could hear the shredding take place.
A legal complaint filed by Fintiklis alleged Trump’s team of improperly destroying the documents and accused Trump’s security team of pushing and shouting at the owner when he came to deliver the notices.
Fintiklis, as The Washington Post reported, blames the Trump Organization for the hotel’s dwindling revenue. He believes Trump’s damaged brand is causing the decline. Meanwhile, Trump’s business contends that it still has a valid contract to run the hotel.
Now, offices have been barricaded at the building and a number of shouting matches have reportedly taken place, according to the AP and The Post. At one point, the power was turned off during a dispute.
The Trump Organization issued a Monday statement on the standoff, blasting Fintiklis and his associates for disregarding the ongoing legal proceedings.
“It now appears as though Mr. Fintiklis has either lost patience with the pace of the proceedings which he commenced or simply lacks the financial backing he once claimed he had,” the statement said, per The Post.
“Mr. Fintiklis recently decided to take matters into his own hands and try and physically – and forcibly – remove Trump from the Hotel as manager,” the Trump Organization statement continued, adding, “Mr. Fintiklis arrived in Panama with a rogue private security team and others and launched a coordinated attack to physically take over the management of the Hotel.”
The Post reported that Fintiklis’ lawyer went to Panamanian authorities Friday to complain about the Trump staffers issuing threats and intimidating him so he wouldn’t enter the building.
Prosecutors promised to investigate. If they follow through, Trump could be faced with a huge decision involving his private business.
“The fear has always been that there would be an international incident involving the finances of the president, and the president would have his loyalties questioned,” Jordan Libowitz, a spokesperson for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told The Post. “What kind of pressure would he be willing to place on” foreign authorities?