It's not uncommon for landbased casinos to find themselves in hot water. Just recently, we reported on two independent stories of SkyCity Auckland as well as Crown Resorts being faced with legal repercussions for their actions. However, it is rare for a landbased casino to be in trouble before it is even built. This isn't the case in this week's news article. Freesoul Real Estate Development, a Chinese-owned casino developer, has been fined $650,000 by the Fijian court. This comes as a response to the group causing irreversible environmental harm to the surrounding reef and mangroves.
The company was found guilty of unauthorized development on one of Fiji’s western islands, Malolo.
Freesoul was on the road to creating the island’s first-ever casino and mega-resort. However, this came at an irreversible cost to the environment. Workers from the company dug a 320 ft. long by 60 ft. wide trench directly through the coral reef surrounding Malolo. This was put in place to allow for boats carrying equipment and building supplies to make their way to the shores.
Furthermore, surrounding mangrove thickets were razed in order to clear a space for the construction. The group showed absolutely no regard for its surroundings, dumping the damaged coral on the beach front of surrounding properties. They also proceeded to dump all human waste produced by their team directly back into the ocean.
According to Justice Daniel Gundar,
"The offender had no regard for the marine life and corals that existed in the area where the channel was dug…"
Upon review by the court, it was surmised that this environmental violation is second to none in the history of the nation.
In April this year, the company was found guilty of destruction of the environment and penalized with a fine of $650,000. Furthermore, the group was hit with a $600,000 bond, which will serve to alleviate the damages caused. However, this will be redeemable once the wrongs have been corrected.
However, this is barely enough punishment for what has been done by Freesoul. In an interview with ABC, Stacy Jupiter, director of Wildlife Conservation Society Melanesia, said,
"It takes reefs hundreds to thousands of years to be able to build structures of the size and scale of which they’ve destroyed, and so you can’t rehabilitate this. No amount of money can rehabilitate what’s been taken away."
The story of this abominable construction first came to light in 2019, when three New Zealand journalists were arrested after trying to get an interview with Freesoul president Dickson Peng.
The trio was trying to get an interview with the company president on the questionable actions of his development. They were then arrested and held overnight on the floor of a Fijian police station. They were released the following day and offered an apology by Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama for their abysmal treatment.
The company naturally plans to continue with its development. However, it will now need to work in. close proximity with the Department of Environment to see how to rectify the mess they have created.
Furthermore, the lawyer for the Freesoul group, David Toganivalu, stated that the company has not yet decided whether or not it will appeal the judgment.