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Family Ties: How a Fugitive Cruise Ship Is Linked to Miami Beach’s Monorail Project



The site of a demolished newspaper building, a controversial monorail project, and a fugitive cruise ship might not seem to have much in common. But all have ties to the same Malaysian billionaire family that operates the hospitality and gambling conglomerate Genting Group and its many subsidiaries. 

In a move that made headlines in Miami last week, federal authorities issued an arrest warrant for a cruise ship called the Crystal Symphony, which was bound for the Port of Miami but detoured to Bimini in order to avoid being seized by the U.S. Marshals Service. The ship had failed to pay a $2.3 million bill for fuel.

The Crystal Symphony is owned by Crystal Cruises, which in turn is owned by Genting Hong Kong, which suspended payments to creditors in August and filed to “wind up” the company last week. The pending bankruptcy has called into question the status of Genting’s other projects, which include its bid to build a $770 million monorail system, known as the Beach Corridor Causeway Extension (Trunkline), slated to connect downtown Miami to Miami Beach.

Luis Espinoza, a spokesperson for the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works, tells New Times that Genting Hong Kong’s woes have no bearing on the monorail project.

“We received notice that Genting Hong Kong is a public company that is not a subsidiary nor an entity of Genting Malaysia Berhad or its Resorts World properties in Florida or the rest of North America,” Espinoza said in a statement to New Times. “Genting Hong Kong’s (and its subsidiaries’) operations have no impact — financial or otherwise — on Resorts World Miami or on the Causeway Extension Trunkline project.”

So it goes in the world of high finance, where determining who owns what often amounts ot a game of three-card monte.

In 2016, Genting Group sold Genting Hong Kong to Golden Hope Limited, a trust owned by the family of Malaysian billionaire Lim Kok Thay. After news of the fugitive ship, Lim stepped down as CEO and chairman of Genting Hong Kong but remains the CEO and chairman of Genting Berhad, Genting Malaysia, and Genting Singapore. (Here’s a handy graphic to help you visualize the relationships between the companies.)

Those with long memories might recall that Genting Group purchased the former Miami Herald building, One Herald Plaza, for $236 million in 2011 with plans to build a large-scale casino and resort through its subsidiary, Resorts World Miami. It later purchased the neighboring Omni mall and the historic Boulevard Shops for nearly $500 million.

When plans for the destination gaming resort didn’t come to fruition owing to Florida’s strict gambling laws, Genting proposed renovating the Boulevard Shops in 2015, a 50-slip marina for large yachts in 2016, and later a 300-room hotel on the site of the Omni bus terminal.

None of those plans has come to fruition.

Last February, Genting resubmitted its bid to create three 60-story residential and hotel towers at One Herald Plaza. In December, The Next Miami reported that Genting had resubmitted platting documents for Resorts World Miami. Platting documents included a platform for a monorail.

The monorail project came under scrutiny in 2018 after then-Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez and others traveled to China to meet with Genting and partner company BYD and used burner phones to seemingly circumvent Florida public-records laws. A county-funded study also found that building and maintaining the monorail would cost about the same as expanding the existing Metromover tracks across Biscayne Bay.

Though independent credit ranking system RAM Ratings does not expect the Genting Hong Kong’s incipient bankruptcy to affect the ratings of its sister companies, The Edge Markets reports that RAM Ratings’ analysts were already concerned that “ownership linkages of the Lim family with Genting group entities do…raise concerns about potential conflicts of interest.”





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