Luis Riu Guell owns a renowned Spanish company that runs more than 100 hotels in 19 countries, including resorts in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and South Beach.
On Monday, Riu checked in for a stay in a Miami-Dade jail.
Riu surrendered Monday to face allegations that he doled out free and luxury resort stays to Miami Beach’s top building official in exchange for help with the company’s large-scale renovation of its South Beach hotel.
After flying in from Spain, Riu walked into a Miami-Dade courtroom on Monday to be handcuffed and processed. His stay behind bars wasn’t long. He spent most of the day in custody and was allowed post a $20,000 bond on Monday night. He can travel from his home in Mallorca, Spain, to resorts around the world.
“His travel is extensive. He’s constantly on the road,” his defense attorney, Barry Wax, told Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Cueto.
Prosecutors last week charged Miami Beach’s former building official, Mariano Fernandez, as well as Riu and the company’s regional vice president, Alejandro Sanchez del Arco. RIU Hotel and Resorts Florida subsidiary was also charged.
They are all charged with unlawful compensation and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation. Sanchez also surrendered on Monday.
“We are confident that our clients have committed no crime whatsoever,” Wax told reporters after his client was led away in handcuffs.
Riu owns the chain with his sister. Their grandparents founded the chain in 1953 in Mallorca and it has since grown to employ more than 28,000 people and serve over 4 million guests a year, according to the company’s website.
His arrest comes as the chain has sought to expand business, with four new resorts opening in 2018, plus five major renovations on existing properties. Last month, the hotel chain launched a rebranding effort to cast itself as “modern, fresher and warmer.”
The Miami criminal charges stem from the renovation of the RIU Plaza Hotel, 3101 Collins Ave. The Miami Beach building department was in charge of permitting and inspections on the massive overhaul that took place between October 2013 and June 2016.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office believes that Fernández helped RIU with permitting, even allowing them to skirt fines, all while he regularly solicited free and comped rooms for him and his employees. According to an arrest warrant, RIU even provided the entire Miami Beach building department with deeply discounted rates for “team-building” retreats to Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
Prosecutors relied on a trove of internal emails to file charges.
“What he has done for us, it has not been a small thing,” Riu wrote in one email while approving a deeply discounted rate for Miami Beach employees to stay at the company’s resort in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.