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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (April 27, 1999 - Radio Australia)---A Japanese businessman who was to have become the majority owner of the Cook Islands' biggest hotel project has been arrested in Japan and charged with embezzlement.

Radio Australia correspondent Florence Syme-Buchanan reports that Tsuneo Otake's company, Max Holdings, and the Castle Group of companies had committed themselves to spending more than thirty million dollars on buying and completing the Vaima‘anga Hotel.

"The money has failed to materialize and following reports of Otake's arrest in Tokyo the problem plagued hotel's future is again uncertain.

"Lawyers representing land and hotel owner, paramount chief Pa Upokotini Ariki, have served notice on Max Holdings and Castle Group stating they have defaulted on the terms of the sixty year lease agreement, as reconstruction hasn't started.

"The two companies now have thirty days to put things right or Pa Ariki will cancel the lease and re-enter the property.

"The Cook Islands was looking to the hotel's reconstruction and operation to turn the flagging economy around.

"Florence Syme-Buchanan, Rarotonga."

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