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As Jamaican hotel chain Sandals Resorts International (SRI) faces a US$5 million lawsuit alleging that it has pocketed monies it collected from guests as government taxes, it has strongly denied the allegations, saying they are “downright false”.
The class action lawsuit filed this week in Florida, United States by Miami-based law firm Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, alleges that the Butch Stewart-owned SRI has engaged in a decades-long tax fraud scheme.
It claims that all-inclusive Sandals properties throughout the Caribbean charged guests fees that they said were local government taxes, but the money was either all or in part being “secretly retained” by the company for its own “use, benefit and profit”.
The law firm said it was therefore “aggressively pursuing litigation” against the hotel chain. It is seeking a jury trial.
“Deceptive charges are used to generate extra profit at the expense of [guests], who are deceived into believing the fees are legitimate charges directly related to Sandals’ taxes to the government,” the lawyers alleged in the court filing.
But denying any wrongdoing, SRI said it “intends to vigorously defend these claims”.
“Our customers are our top priority, and under no circumstances would we exploit their faith in us. Our valued guests have never – and will never – be unlawfully charged for taxes, and allegations to the contrary are simply false,” it said in a statement.
“Not only do we conduct our business with transparency, we meet all our tax obligations in each of the islands where we call home. We take great pride in being the gold standard in the islands where we operate and have spent close to four decades providing guests with the most comprehensive vacation experience bar none.”