Weeks of drama surrounding one of Trump’s 12 luxury hotels culminated Monday morning when armed agents evicted the company’s staff from the Trump Hotel in Panama City, Panama, according to the Associated Press.
The conflict between the Trump business, which manages the property, and the hotel’s majority owner, Orestes Fintiklis, centered around a messy dispute in which Fintiklis accused the Trump Organization of mismanagement and the Trump Organization accused Fintiklis of staging a takeover of the hotel.
Fintiklis, in arguing for his right to kick out the property manager, accused the Trump Organization of “gross incompetence” that led to swelling costs and tanking revenue, according to ABC News. As a result, he argued in a court filing, he was losing out on his investment, while “lining the [Trump Organization’s] pockets.” Fintiklis has taken his case to court in the U.S. and to international arbitration in Panama in an effort to evict the Trump business.
According to the Washington Post, a public prosecutor is investigating Trump employees for refusing orders from Fintiklis, possibly breaking the law in doing so. The employees could be jailed or fined. The Panamanian Labor Ministry is also investigating whether the Trump Organization violated the country’s national labor code by allegedly failing to pay hotel staff.
Fintiklis, apparently considering the legal process too slow, asserted his power as the owner by sending in his own security guards to forcibly remove the Trump Organization. On Tuesday, a video showed Fintiklis’ security guards tussling with security guards from Trump’s company. Panamanian police arrived to break up the fight, and when one officer attempted to enter the hotel’s administrative offices, one of Trump’s guards blocked access and was handcuffed and taken away, according to the Post. In a bizarre cap to the morning’s events, Fintiklis entered the hotel, tried to fire nine employees from the Trump Organization, couldn’t find them, and proceeded to play Beethoven’s “Für Elise” on the lobby piano, to a round of applause from his employees.
The Trump Organization responded to these efforts by accusing Fintiklis of using a “rogue private security team” to “physically take over the management” before “resorting to thug-like, mob style tactics,” according to ABC News. Fintiklis did not have the right to seize the property, the company argued, as the contract that handed over management duties to the Trump Organization through 2031 stipulated that the agreement could not be broken without the ruling of an arbitrator. Fintiklis betrayed the company, the company said, by “plotting a takeover and termination of Trump Hotels.”
It’s unclear if and how the dispute will affect diplomacy in Panama. The U.S. ambassador is set to leave in just a few days, having recently resigned over an unwillingness to serve Trump’s agenda. The possibility that the presence of Trump properties in other countries could sway diplomacy and international policy led many to call for Trump to divest from the Trump Organization. In a move that failed to satisfy ethics watchdogs, Trump put his sons in charge of running the business but left it under his ownership. According to the Post, Donald Trump made, in his most recently available filing, $810,000 in roughly 15 months from the Panama hotel.