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Vanuatu casino resort sold

Thu, Jul 11, 2:23pm by Staff Writer

An island resort and casino near Vanuatu’s capital of Port Vila has reportedly been sold.

Property Observer is reporting that Iririki Island, the 28 hectare resort described as the jewel in the crown of Vanuatu and boasts the nation’s premier gambling den has been sold.

Its sale was reported by Nine Entertainment.

It has 72 villas, five bars and restaurants and a day spa.

The Australian reported the Jones Lang LaSalle sales brochure didn’t advise on a long-running legal fight with some of the owners of another 68 units on the island over a long list of issues including rent, body corporate fees and insurance.

Darren Pettiona, a former executive with funds management empire Van Eyk, co-owns it with his brother, Shane.

One of the unit owners is Melbourne man Raphael Sztrochlic.

“Anything that’s involved with Iririki is just a nightmare,” he told The Australian.

The dispute will be heard in Port Vila on June 11.

One of the issues centres on the proceeds of a $20 million insurance payout from QBE Insurance after 2015’s Cyclone Pam devastated the island.

Pettiona has told prior court hearings the resort was worth about $32 million.

In 2017, Melbourne’s wealthy Zagame family put their Grand Hotel & Casino resort in Vanuatu up for sale with market expectations of around $25 million.

Built in 2003, the eight-level hotel overlooks Port Vila harbour and offers views towards Iririki Island.

It features 15 gaming tables, 136 slot machines, a VIP top-floor gaming room, a restaurant, conference rooms, four bars, a pool and spa.

The family’s involvement in Vanuatu dates back to 2001 when they were part of the consortium of Victorian hoteliers that purchased the private island resort of Iririki.

Patriarch Victor Zagame established the family’s hospitality business in 1971 with the opening of the Albion Charles Hotel in Melbourne’s north eastern suburb of Northcote.

Fijian island centre of controversial new development

A 60 Minutes report in May revealed the Fijian island, which has been earmarked to make way for a casino.

According to 9 News, Australian mates Woody Jack and Navrin Fox couldn’t believe their luck when they foul the untouched beach on Fiji’s Malolo Island.

The surfers thought they’d found the perfect slice of paradise, so were quick to secure a 99-year lease for the beachfront property, with humble plans to build three eco-friendly bures on the land.

Their Fijian dream soon became a nightmare when Chinese developers moved in next door and began bulldozing everything in sight.

Rainforest was destroyed and reef and sandy beach made way for a massive resort, which was to include Fiji’s only casino.

“We just had a little dream…some land in Fiji would be great, we’re in a position to do it,” Nav says.

“And then Goliath steps in next door and just starts throwing his fists around and smashing stuff up and going crazy.”

Billion-dollar Chinese development company Freesoul is responsible for tearing apart the Fijian paradise.

They illegally excavated the reef off Malolo Island and then used the deal coral to build a road over Nav and Woody’s beachfront so they could move their heavy equipment on their site.

“There’s thousands of tonnes of dead reef,” Nav says.

Freesoul also cut down half the trees on the boys’ property and destroyed a huge section of mangroves along the foreshore.

For Fiji local partner Jonah Joseva, who has a third share in the land with Woody and Nav, it’s also a matter of intense disrespect against the Fijian people.

“They have no respect for us,” he tells 9 News.

“They just dig and do all the damage down there.”

Freesoul even erected a huge fence to try and keep the trio out of their land.

The situation escalated earlier this year when Nav took a New Zealand film crew with him to document the damage.

A Freesoul employee repeatedly tried to eject Nav from the property, becoming physically aggressive.

“The last thing you expect is for someone to come out and start yelling at you and trying to physically remove you from your land,” Nav said.

“It’s devastating.”

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