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Paraguay – Government suspends casino tender in Ciudad del Este

By - 8 January 2018

The Head of the gaming commission Javier Balbuena (CONAJZAR) has announced that the construction of a hotel and casino in the city of Ciudad del Este has been cancelled.

Balbuena confirmed the cancellation of the construction of a casino and hotel on the eleven-hectare site owned by the National Administration of Navigation and Ports (ANNP). The ANNP property is located at the head of the Friendship Bridge (Puente de la Amistad) – an arch bridge connecting the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu and Ciudad del Este.

According to Balbuena, the reason for the suspension of the process is a judicial conflict between the National Administration of Navigation and Ports (ANNP) and a private company over the 11 hectares property. The dispute is currently ongoing in the courts with Suisse Investment Corp SA, which had already leased the property in 2013.

The concession contract was signed on January 24, 2013, during the previous government of President Federico Franco, three months before the elections of April of that year. The signing of the contract was made between the then President of Ports, Fernando Javier Nicora López Moreira, and the Lebanese merchant Nabil Bahjat Nasser. The duration of the contract is for 25 years, which was rescinded when President Horacio Cartes took office, which is why Suisse Investment Corp SA had put in place a temporary injunction measure. The conflict continues in the courts.

“We approved the list (of the tender to build the licence for the casino and hotel), but after that we learned about the trial that the ports had, in response to that trial, and the report that the ports brought us, regarding a temporary injunction measure on the property in question, we decided to suspend it, everything is suspended, there is no procedure to continue, nor do we have it in our bidding schedule in the current year,” said Balbuena.

In March 2017, President Cartes by decree authorised the call for tender for the concession of the land to foreign investors for the construction of a large-scale hotel and casino on the site. The building currently houses a number of government offices including the Customs Office.

The use of the ANNP site as a casino and hotel has caused considerable controversy. The Alto Paraná regional headquarters of the Paraguayan Chamber of Construction (CAPACO) as well as a number of architect guilds and university faculties had joined other organisations calling for plans for the casino to be scrapped. In addition the Justice department in Paraguay only recently dismissed the accusations made against Javier Balbuena, the mayor of Ciudad del Este Sandra McLeod de Zacarías Irún, and the President of Paraguay Horacio Cartes. The charges had been put forward by Nicolás Russo acting lawyer for the Union for Paraguay’s National Ports Authority (ANNP) who argued that the defendants had unlawfully paved the way for the use of the institution’s land for the construction of a hotel and casino on the site.

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