Spanish hotel magnate Luis Riu Guell yesterday surrendered to Miami-Dade police to face allegations that he gave free and luxury resort stays to Miami Beach’s top building official in exchange for help with the company’s large-scale renovation of its South Beach hotel, the online version of the Miami Herald reported.
According to the newspaper, Riu — chairman of the family-operated RIU Hotels and Resorts chain — flew into the city from Spain and went to a Miami-Dade courtroom where he was processed. The newspaper said he would be allowed to post a US$20,000 bond and released.
“His travel is extensive. He’s constantly on the road,” the Miami Herald reported Riu’s defence attorney Barry Wax as telling Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Cueto.
The Miami Herald report said that last week prosecutors charged Miami Beach’s former building official, Mariano Fernàndez, as well as Riu; the company’s regional vice-president, Alejandro Sanchez del Arco; and RIU Hotel and Resorts’ Florida subsidiary.
“They are all charged with unlawful compensation and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation,” the newspaper reported, adding that Sanchez also surrendered yesterday.
“We are confident that our clients have committed no crime whatsoever,” the newspaper reported Wax as telling reporters.
According to the Miami Herald, the “charges stem from the renovation of the RIU Plaza Hotel, 3101 Collins Ave. The Miami Beach building department was in charge of permitting and inspections on the massive overhaul that took place between October 2013 and June 2016”.
The newspaper said that “the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office believes that Fernández helped RIU with permitting, even allowing them to skirt fines, all while he regularly solicited free and comped rooms for him and his employees”.
The Herald report said that an arrest warrant claimed that RIU “provided the entire Miami Beach building department with deeply discounted rates for ‘team-building’ retreats to Mexico and the Dominican Republic”, adding that prosecutors “relied on a trove of internal e-mails to file charges”.
The newspaper stated that the arrest came as the chain “has sought to expand business, with four new resorts opening in 2018, plus five major renovations on existing properties”.
In addition to Mexico and the Dominican Republic, RIU operates hotels in Jamaica, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Germany, Bulgaria, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, the United States, The Bahamas, Aruba, Costa Rica, Panama, Cape Verde, Mauritius, St Martin, and Sri Lanka.