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Updated Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:56pm AEST
A Macau-based company is suing the Laotian Government, claiming it illegally took 400 million dollars intended for investment.
Sanum Investments is behind several hotel and casino projects in Laos, including Savan Vegas in Savannakhet.
The company says it invested in Laos in good faith and accuses the government of breaking its promise to protect foreign investors against “greed and exploitation.”
Sanum says the government is guilty of misconduct for allowing a well-connected Laotian family and their companies to seize control of Sanum’s prize asset, the Thanaleng Slot Machine Club near the capital Vientiane.
Further accusations centre on a retroactive 23 million dollars tax bill, and the arbitrary revoking of licences and concessions worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The claims will be handled by the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes using treaties signed by Laos.
Sanum’s president Jody Jordahl said the company had been left with no other option, after taking “every possible step” within Laos to negotiate a settlement.
“We’ve met with our minority partners, we’ve met with the government, we’ve gone through the office of economic dispute resolution, which is what’s called for in the dispute resolution clause, and we’ve gone through the courts and unfortunately have gotten nowhere,” he told Radio Australia’s Connect Asia program.
Mr Jordhal said he was confident the World Bank’s tribunal would return a favourable verdict, but hopes an agreement can still be reached without arbitration.
“We hope the government steps up and recognises its responsibility and helps us fix the issues that have come up in Laos,” he said. “If not, we’ll certainly pursue these arbitrations to their final settlement phase.”
“This (is) really a key issue for all investors throughout the region, because if this is the way that our government treats foreign investors and honours its international obligation, then it’s not a safe environment for the international investment community, so it’s an important topic for everyone.”
Laos’ government has declined Connect Asia’s request for an interview or statement on the matter.