Aruba BankAMIGOE ARUBAEntrepreneurs Aqua Spa fight onSunday, 28 October 2012 17:02ORANJESTAD — In the multi-million claims case against Arubabank and RiffortVillage/Renaissance Hotel, the bank recently lied before the judge, said Aruban entrepreneurs whoinstituted proceedings based on new evidence.A decision on this case from the meanwhile bankrupt beauty parlor Aqua Spa at the RenaissanceHotel on Curaçao is scheduled for Monday, October 29. The case had come up in court onSeptember 18 on which the Amigoe reported on September 20. At the time the judge already paidmuch attention to the role of Arubabank in the company’s ruin. Entrepreneurs Hassell-Lopez(mother Mena and son Emile) claimed almost 12 million florins because they alleged the bank hadconnived with Renaissance so that the hotel could take over the spa for very little.Attachment of goodsIn court the judge mainly asked questions as to why the bank – when there was a question ofarrears with the entrepreneurs – had closed the spa for two months and left the contents inside. Aclear answer wasn’t given in court because Arubabank made it clear that it hadn’t actually closedthe business on December 22, 2010. The bank implied in court that the spa could have continued itsbusiness. The bank had gone to the spa with a bailiff that day but only to take stock. By its ownaccount the bank took that action because it feared the entrepreneurs would try to sell theinsolvent spa. After all the bank had tried to contact spa-director Emile for days and on December17 the bank finally visited mother Mena Lopez who supposedly mentioned the sale at the time. Forthat matter, the entrepreneurs categorically deny the sale.After the session in court on September 18 the entrepreneurs immediately started collecting newevidence against what the two bank employees had stated before the judge. A conversationfollowed with the bailiff and personnel from Arubabank, who unexpectedly visited the spa andimmediately closed the business. This bailiff states he acted by order of the bank to place anattachment on the goods. According to him, this automatically means closing the businessimmediately. The request to place an attachment had already been made on December 7, accordingto a letter from the lawyer currently representing Arubabank in this case. The Arubabank lied onceagain to the judge on having waited until after December 17 to take action, said Lopez.Matter of principleThe bailiff also stated that the auction of the seized goods was held several months later becauseArubabank negotiated with Eduardo de Veer Jr. from Renaissance on how much De Veer would pay
for the goods. Entrepreneurs Hassell and Lopez consider this further evidence for their propositionthat the goods were sold for next to nothing so that Renaissance could eventually reopen the spaquickly on its own. During the auction the goods were sold to De Veer for 76,000 florins. It was apublic auction and according to a statement from another beauty specialist who wanted to make abid, everyone who had come felt they were taken for a ride because apparently there was alreadyan agreement that Renaissance would buy the business. The entrepreneurs also query thisconsidering their current debt of 1.6 million which Arubabank had reclaimed while the bank hadsold their goods for a very low price. According to Lopez, this also proves that the bank had liedabout their collaboration with Renaissance.Lopez, who had a spa for years on Aruba, says this case has now become a matter of principle.“Behind our backs the bank negotiated with Renaissance to take over the spa, thus violating ethicrules. I don’t want to become 80 years and live with this dishonesty for years. We call this swindlehere. During the court session the lawyer of Renaissance spoke of the goose with the golden eggsand that the hotel must not become a playground for companies. However, it happens to be theirplayground and they have the goose with the golden eggs while they and the bank abuse theirpower to put pressure on an ambitious entrepreneur.” This pressure continues said Lopez becausedespite the trial bailiffs still pay her salon on Aruba unexpected visits. She finds the conduct of theArubabank – ‘I’m not talking about all banks because I had a good relation with RBC for example’ –and the lying shocking. “Like many, I’ve been raised to respect banks. They are to comply with highethic standards; that’s how they promote themselves. At first I couldn’t believe their intentions andit took some time before I understood. That’s why I always compare my shock with that of thereports on abuse in the Catholic Church.”EventsIn any case Lopez will never borrow from a bank again. She sees events as the upcoming ArubaSmall Business Week as a ‘front’ to get entrepreneurs to contract a loan. “I know them because I toovisited such events. It sounds promising for the average entrepreneur who has little time andlistens to information that is aiming too high. These are socializing events where food and drinksare served, something comparable to falling in love. However, the wake-up call comes once you’vesigned. Signing a loan agreement with Arubabank with personal surety is like Hotel California tome: you can check out but you can never leave.” Lopez advises other entrepreneurs to use theirsavings or bring in capital together with other equal partners. “Take it slow, and grow step by stepon your own.”On her trial she states: “the judge also urged for a settlement and was prepared to give more time.Lopez says there’ve been approaches by Arubabank and Renaissance since September 18 butthere’s nothing concrete as yet. If the verdict next Monday is not in her favor, the entrepreneur willnot give up. “It’s become a matter of principle; this is not how you treat people.”No comment
Arubabank and Renaissance said they wouldn’t comment while the trial is in progress. As reportedearlier by the Amigoe they deny the conspiracy. They blame the downfall of Aqua Spa oninexperience, especially of director Hassell, and consider this the risk of entrepreneurship.