Workers took down President Donald Trump's name outside his family company's luxury hotel in Panama yesterday, and evicted Trump executives from their management offices in a business dispute under orders from Panamanian officials.
The dramatic development in a 12-day dispute over control of the property came early yesterday when a Panamanian judicial official and police officers backed the hotel's majority owner, Orestes Fintiklis, as he took possession of the 70-floor, waterfront high-rise.
"This was purely a commercial dispute that just spun out of control," Chicago Tribune quoted Fintiklis, a Miami-based private equity investor and head of the hotel owners' association, as saying. "And today this dispute has been settled by the authorities and the judges of this country."
But according to lawyers of the Trump Organization, the underlying dispute had not be settled by the Panamanian courts. The management contract held by the Trump group is still valid, it claims, and the courts had only appointed an interim management until an international arbitration panel rules on the issue.
"Trump Hotels is totally convinced it will not only prevail, but that it should also be paid damages, costs and other charges related to today's actions," the lawyers said in a statement.
The dispute had spilled out into the open last week with Fintiklis, the majority owner of the hotel, arriving at the lobby of the building with associates. Their intention was to oust the Trump Organization, which has managed the hotel since its 2011 opening.
At one point in the days following the incident, matters took such an ugly turn that Trump Organization security and hotel officials were seen fighting within the building in leaked footage.
According to ethics experts, the standoff presents Trump with one of his most consequential conflicts of interest as president.
"As long as President Trump refuses to divest from his businesses, his presidency will be followed by the shadow of conflict of interest," Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Business Insider yesterday.