Tiger One and Silver Heritage Investment held in contemptThe company is the operator of the Tiger Palace Resort, a five-star integrated casino resort in Bhairahawa.
The Rupandehi District Court has slapped gaming operator Tiger One and Silver Heritage Investment with a fine of Rs3,000 for contempt of court.
District Judge Lila Raj Adhikari handed down the order against the operator of the Tiger Palace Resort, a five-star integrated casino resort in Bhairahawa, on Monday.
“The District Court deems the company committed ‘willful and intentional disobedience’ of the court’s orders in connection with the encroachment of public land,” advocate for the petitioner Lekhnath Pokhrel told the Post.
A local water users group had filed the contempt petition against Tiger One and Silver Heritage Investment charging that it flouted court orders forbidding it to sell shares or build anything on the land it claims is public property.
Shobhakar Kharel, bench officer of the Rupandehi District Court, told the Post that the full text of the order would be released after a few days.
The court has also issued orders to scrap all sales and purchase agreements of the resort with immediate effect, according to Pokhrel.
Tiger One is the locally registered subsidiary of the Australian-listed Silver Heritage Group. The group debuted in Nepal in 2015 with the opening of The Millionaire’s Club & Casino at the Shangri-La Hotel in Kathmandu. In 2017, it opened the 100-room Tiger Palace Resort in Bhairahawa, which is the first integrated five-star casino resort in South Asia.
According to reports, the Silver Heritage Group was placed into voluntary administration last May by its main lender, OCP Asia, after the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent closure of its two Nepal casinos–Tiger Palace Resort and The Millionaire’s Club in Kathmandu–ended any chance the company had of finding new options to generate liquidity.
On July 5, 2019, the court had issued an interim order to Tiger One and Silver Heritage Investment of Tilottama Municipality-7 forbidding it to sell shares or build anything on the plot where the five-star Tiger Palace Resort stands, pending a full verdict on a writ petition charging encroachment on public land.
“The company did not maintain the status quo in the case,” said Pokhrel.
In 2019, the Lumbini Namkul Consumers’ Association, a Bhairahawa-based groundwater users group, had filed a writ demanding the recovery of 9 katthas (3,205 square metres) of public land.
The project has accused the resort of encroaching on plot numbers 120, 148, 152 and 190 belonging to a public canal and plot number 73 belonging to the government.
According to Pokhrel, a government team including the Department of Land Survey is scheduled to do a survey of the areas on Thursday.
The court orders dated July 5, 2019 and August 14, 2019 state that the shares of Tiger One, land and physical infrastructure cannot be transferred, and that the status quo must be maintained, the petitioners said.
This order of the Rupandehi District Court has been upheld by the Butwal High Court.
“The opponent has captured government land and constructed infrastructure, and they are not eligible to do so. In the context of the petition claim to that extent, the defendants have conducted purchase and sale of shares, undergone agreements and constructed physical structures including a new house and party hall on the land, which is in contempt of court. Thus a miscellaneous criminal case should be filed against the defendants,” the petitioners' document states.
According to the documents seen by the Post, the sale and purchase agreements of the shares and properties of Silver Heritage Investment were completed on August 3.
“We presented proof to the court that the sale and purchase agreements of the shares and properties of Silver Heritage Investment were done. But the company denied the charges at the court and lied that the sale and purchase agreements had not happened,” said Pokhrel.
“This further attracted another contempt of court. The court has issued orders to scrap all sale and purchase agreements.”
The documents showed that the buyers were United States-based Manhattan Heights Group, Bhusal Investment of Bhairahawa and Kathmandu-based Samrat Group.
“All these sale and purchase agreements were illegal as the case was sub judice,” said Awadh Bihari Dubey, general secretary of the water users group who filed the contempt case.
The shares and properties have been valued at Rs4.10 billion, according to a source privy to the matter. The properties include a casino housed in the Shangri-La Hotel in Kathmandu, around 11 bighas of land belonging to the Tiger Two project in Jhapa, and the Tiger Palace Casino Resort spread over 17 bighas of land in Bhairahawa.
Built at a cost of Rs6 billion, the Tiger Palace Resort has been valued at Rs3.97 billion, the source said.
The Silver Heritage Group has put its property on the market several times. In August 2019, non-resident Nepali Indra Bahadur Thapa had offered to buy the Tiger Palace Resort in Bhairahawa at an enterprise value of $33.9 million. But the deal fell through after Thapa failed to come up with the money.
At that time, three Nepali business houses—Chaudhary Group, IME Group and Vishal Group—were in the fray to buy the resort after the Silver Heritage Group put it up for sale or partnership.
The 100-room property is the first integrated five-star casino resort in South Asia. Silver Heritage had planned to offer 400 guest rooms in the second phase. It was awarded a five-star rating by the Department of Tourism in November 2017.
Tiger Palace is spread over 17 bighas and features two villas, a gym, spa, swimming pools, restaurants and meeting and banquet facilities suitable for weddings. The resort has a 2,471 square-metre casino floor.