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Gambling ship to be sold to pay unpaid wages

Chief Justice Richard Ground is set to order the sale of controversial casino ship the

Niobe Corinthian, so its crew can be paid overdue wages and repatriation costs.

The ship, worth an estimated $4 million, has been tethered to the dock in St David's for more than three years.

According to court papers, its three-man crew, from Honduras, are owed wages dating back to September 2010.

A union organiser told

The Royal Gazette the men have endured a "nightmare", having been left stranded in Bermuda with no wages. They had to rely on charity hand-outs to live until they finally managed to fly home in June.

The

Niobe Corinthian was launched to allow Bermudians to escape the Island's strict anti-gambling laws and indulge in casino games in international waters.

However, it has been plagued with legal woes and on June 10, the ship's captain Pablo Riera Sr, issued a writ for unpaid wages and repatriation costs, along with his crew who are his son Pablo Jr plus Juan Aleman.

On June 21, the writ was served on the ship's owners, Estrellas Management, via a notice taped to the front window of the Panama-registered vessel. The legal action was organised by the Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU), which has taken up the case of the Honduran crew.

Today their lawyer Craig Rothwell asked the Chief Justice for an order that the boat be sold at auction, and the crew be reimbursed from the profits. Their total claim for unpaid wages plus air tickets home to Honduras totals $40,284.50. The captain and crew returned to their home country in June.

Mr Rothwell said HM Customs has also indicated it will seek money from the sale of the ship. He told the judge Estrellas Management has not responded to the writ. The company had no representative in court for the hearing.

Asked by the Chief Justice if anything is known about Estrellas Management, Mr Rothwell replied: "We don't know and it should be immaterial because the writ is issued against the ship."

After considering the matter, Mr Justice Ground said he needed to be satisfied via additional legal paperwork that the writ had been properly served. However, he said: "I'm satisfied you have made good your claim and that you have proved your claim."

He said that, subject to Mr Rothwell satisfying the necessary formalities, he would make the order at a follow-up hearing tomorrow.

Speaking after the hearing, BIU organiser Louis Somner said: "I guess the next step in the process will be for the Provost Marshall General to arrange the auction and sale and let this nightmare be over for the captain and his crew."

He estimated that the ship, which is fitted out with 181 gaming machines and two new engines, could fetch in the region of $4 million at auction.

Mr Somner said the captain and his crew were only paid half-pay from September to December last year and received no wages at all this year.

"They had contracts agreeing to certain wages and conditions and that if the company breached those they would be repatriated," he explained.

However, in the absence of any money from the company, the men had to live on handouts.

"They've been relying on contributions from the public, the First Church of God, the MarketPlace store and members of the union," he said.

Estrellas Management is jointly owned by two trusts. Mr Somner said Capital G bank, which is the trustee of one of the trusts, contributed money towards the airline tickets for the men to finally fly home in June.

The Niobe Corinthian

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Published August 03, 2011 at 3:15 pm (Updated August 03, 2011 at 3:15 pm)

Gambling ship to be sold to pay unpaid wages

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