Judge, police help oust Trump Hotels from Panama property

PANAMA CITY (AP) — Workers pried President Donald Trump's name from signs outside his family company's luxury hotel in Panama today, as Trump's executives were ousted from their management offices in a business dispute under orders from Panamanian officials. Trump's security guards also left.

The end to a 12-day standoff over control of the property came early in the day when a Panamanian judicial official and police officers backed the hotel's majority owner, Orestes Fintiklis, as he took possession of the offices. The Trump-affiliated management and security officials then left the 70-story, waterfront high-rise.

"This was purely a commercial dispute that just spun out of control," said Fintiklis, a Miami-based private equity investor and head of the hotel owners' association. "And today this dispute has been settled by the authorities and the judges of this country."

The Trump Organization's lawyers, however, said Panamanian courts had in fact made no determination on the underlying dispute – a management contract held by the Trump group that it claims is still valid – and had only appointed an interim management until an international arbitration panel rules on the issue.

"Trump Hotels is totally convinced it will not only prevail, but that it should also be paid damages, costs and other charges related to today's actions," the lawyers said in a statement. The Trump Organization didn't say who the new management was or why the Trump name was removed from the hotel.

The Panamanian Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Trump Hotel's website had ceased offering direct bookings at the hotel by early this afternoon. "We apologize," the site said. "There are no available rooms for your requested stay."

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