Caesars Palace to open in Dubai’s Bluewaters this year

Legendary US hospitality firm Caesars Entertainment Corporation has collaborated with leading developer Meraas to bring two luxury hotels, a conference centre and a beach club to Dubai’s manmade island Bluewaters, located off the coast of Jumeirah Beach Residence.

They include a 178-key Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai, the world’s second, and a 301 room Caesars Bluewaters Dubai.

Both will feature indoor and outdoor swimming pools, views of Ain Dubai, a total of nine world-class restaurants, spacious spas and event space as well as a 450-metre private beach in the second hotel.

The plans are in line with Sheikh Mohammed’s Dubai Tourism Vision 2020 to introduce exclusive concepts to the Emirate, as well as the Dubai Plan 2021 to diversify economic activities.

Bluewaters will be the first project in Caesars Entertainment’s plan to expand into new markets through licensing and management arrangements.

The new resorts will offer a mix of live entertainment and gourmet celebrity restaurants.

“[Meraas] is creating unique experiences and leveraging strategic partnerships to showcase the best of what Dubai can offer to its visitors. The landmark arrangement with Caesars Entertainment, which aims to establish Bluewaters as a world-class tourist attraction with exclusive international entertainment opportunities, is a significant achievement for the emirate’s thriving hospitality and entertainment sectors,” said Abdulla Al Habbai, Group Chairman of Meraas.

Over the past five years, the firm has invested in an AED18b portfolio of key leisure and entertainment projects, including Dubai Parks and Resorts, The Green Planet, Dubai Arena, Ain Dubai, Laguna Waterpark and Dubai Safari.

Caesars Entertainment’s entry into the region is expected to boost the area’s tourism industry.

The firm is known for hosting global superstars in regular performers, and is the world’s third largest live entertainment promoter, with its Planet Hollywood property in Las Vegas acting as home to the Zappos Theatre venue, one of the biggest in the world.

“Through our collaboration with Meraas, we anticipate Bluewaters Island will evolve into the region’s top hospitality, dining and entertainment destination. This project represents Caesars’ ability to focus on our strengths in hospitality as well as reinforce our commitment and capacity to establish brands in new global markets,” said Mark Frissora, President and Chief Executive Officer of Caesars Entertainment.

Caesars Entertainment’s portfolio attracts over 115 million guests worldwide every year, and the company operates 39,000 hotel rooms and suites, with more than 500 restaurants across 53 properties in five countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, South Africa and Egypt.

It also organises over 10,000 live entertainment shows annually, while its loyalty programmes has more than 55 million members.

As for Bluewaters, it comprises 10 apartment buildings with a total of 700 units offering views of the Arabian Gulf. They include residential amenities such as state-of-the-art gyms, swimming pools, landscaped gardens, basketball courts and children’s play areas.

Access to Bluewaters is through a bridge that connects the island directly to Sheikh Zayed Road. The island will also connect to The Beach via a 265-metre pedestrian bridge.

Business went through accelerated reality check but remains solid, says Etihad CEO

Etihad’s airline operations remain commercially viable and reports of cutting back on routes to otherwise well-known destinations shouldn’t be seen as signs of trouble, its chief, Peter Baumgartner, has said.

Baumgartner, CEO of Etihad Airways, part of Etihad Aviation Group, was speaking with CNBC yesterday when he said that such route cuts were “business as usual” and could be temporary.

“We do this in a way that it is very, very strategic. This is a constant evaluation that is not a one-time cut, and then you are done for the next ten years. This is a very agile business, in a very agile environment, and so that’s kind of business as usual,” he said.

Etihad Aviation Group posted its first loss in its history last year. The financial loss of $1.9 billion announced by the airline was attributed to one-time impairments on aircraft and investments in troubled European airlines including Alitalia and Airberlin.

However, the company’s core airline product “has always been operating very-, in a very, very solid way,” according to Baumgartner.

The most challenging times came in 2016 “when the oil price collapsed, and local regional markets contracted,” said Baumgartner, accelerating overcapacity issues particularly on competitive routes, bringing margins on those flights lower.

“That was kind of a perfect storm,” he said, “But even then, we operated with very solid load factors.”

Baumgartner acknowledged Etihad had gone through an “accelerated reality check” whose effects “are not just one-time, they are a cycle and do not go away that quickly,” but added that the airline’s response was “what you would expect a business after 10 years to do.”

How The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company Serves Up Authentic Hospitality: A Brand Evolution, Property by Property

If you have an impression of luxury hotels as identical, interchangeable, and pressed in place by the same massive cookie cutter in the sky, I have good news for you. Times have changed.

To wit: I’m on the lower level of the achingly beautiful Ritz-Carlton hotel in Kyoto, thousands of miles from home, watching my 13-year-old son swing a 3-foot sword alarmingly close to his vulnerable toes as master-well-trained, I hope and trust-puts him through his paces in a lesson arranged by the hotel.

After my son hangs up his samurai robe and surrenders his sword to the instructor (without, to my surprise, having drawn blood) it’s time for dinner, a Kyoto-themed traditional meal bookended by cherry blossom tea made here in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, and then to bed in our room overlooking the Kamo river, the most iconic natural feature of the city. (On the way to bed, we end up walking on water, or close to it, for our pre-bedtime stroll: We’re able to step right out of the hotel and onto the chiseled stepping stones that span the Kamo, passing the famous stone boat sculptures that decorate the way.)

All of this follows yesterday’s much more urban, much more Tokyo-ish day 318 miles away at Ritz-Carlton’s gleaming midtown tower, where the staff energetically connected us with everything Tokyo, from Studio Ghibli-related discoveries to some hands-on moments in the care of a sushi master at the Tsukiji Fish Market (more on this later). And will be followed tomorrow by a street-food-themed visit to the Ritz-Carlton in Osaka, home of the Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street, which has to be the longest, funkiest food-and-shopping court in Japan, and, for all I know, the world.

***

Once upon a time, it’s true, one size pretty much fit all in hotel facilities. Although the great hotel companies have always personalized their service to accommodate each distinct guest, their hotel properties, as you moved city to city, property to property, even continent to continent, could often feel interchangeable.

This didn’t happen by accident. In the formative days of a brand like Ritz-Carlton, as its leadership mulled over the best way to spread its brand essence globally, the decision was made to standardize what guests traveling to any point in the world could expect. “Naples [Florida] was supposed to feel like Laguna Niguel [California], was supposed to feel like Cancun,” says Lisa Holladay, the company’s Global Brand Leader. The calculation at the time (the 1980s; although Ritz-Carlton has branding roots that stretch back nearly a hundred years, 1983 marked the start of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company as a modern organization) was this: A luxury brand could only expect to serve the deepest-pocketed 3% or less of the traveling public on a regular basis; although travelers on tighter budgets could be expected to splurge from time to time, it would be this tiny, top percentage of travelers who’d keep the company’s lights on. If this well-heeled 3% could learn to count on one brand for reliable standards worldwide in both service and facilities, it would go a long way toward building a sustainable position in the market.

Herve Humler, longtime President and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company (emeritus as of January), has been involved from those formative days through the present, and spoke to me about this for my new book, The Heart of Hospitality: Great Hotel and Restaurant Leaders Share Their Secrets,to which he also contributed the foreword. He updated his thoughts for this article.

In the early days, standardization was seen as a positive goal in our property-development activities. The Ritz-Carlton of today, however, is committed to local authenticity, property by property. While the service standards for which we are legendary remain consistent wherever you go in the world, the flavor, the essence, of each hotel is intended to reflect its environment.  

We accomplish this via design, employee selection and training, and, above all, creative empowerment: Our Ladies and Gentlemen understand that it is their job to share their knowledge and passion for what makes their locality unique in creative ways that they, locally on the ground can do better than anyone sitting back in a corporate headquarters, could ever do.

 The Localization of Luxury Hotels

According to Humler, this change in strategy came in response to feedback from guests, who, in increasing numbers over time, have come to express a desire for travel experiences that are more locally authentic, more in tune with what I call, in my writing, terroir. (I find terroir, in the sense that I use the term, to be one of the most important signifiers of authenticity that the traveling public looks for today. This is the French term for the convergence of factors–location, geography, climate, and so forth–that go into creating what is unique about a particular wine or piece of produce, but I find value in applying it more broadly.) In response, the Ritz-Carlton organization made the decision to differentiate each property they built, moving forward, from every other.

Within a single country like Japan, where Ritz-Carlton’s presence includes four distinct properties, you can see this play out in. Take, for starters, the Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, where my son was learning to be a miniature samurai and I was chewing my nails to the quick on his behalf. This is Ritz-Carlton’s most recently opened property in Japan, and it couldn’t feel more at home in this city of legendary beauty and history if it had sprung up organically centuries ago. (Although the hotel is newly constructed, the architect and builder have incorporated the actual first-floor dining room of an industrialist’s historic two-story villa that previously stood on this location. The room, constructed in part of wood that is some 700 years old, provides a serene refuge in a quiet part of the otherwise-bustling La Locando restaurant located just off the hotel’s lobby.)

Other local touches include lighting fixtures used throughout the Kyoto hotel that were custom-made for the hotel by the local, ninth-generation family business that hand-makes the parasols for the famed Kyoto geishas. “As you can imagine,” says Holladay, the Global Brand Leader, “that’s not exactly a growth market,” and the parasol maker was racing against time to reinvent itself. Now, they “take what used to be handmade parasols and turn them into beautiful lanterns. All of that history and heritage now inform a simple furnishings detail that for us localizes our Kyoto property.”

Back in Tokyo, you can see this localization at play within Ritz-Carlton’s towering luxury property in the heart of midtown. The hotel includes a 100+ year-old tea house that was moved there and reassembled-board by board-high up in the skyscraper (on floor 45!) as well as multiple other touches throughout the hotel. Some of my favorites are the unusually beautiful interior woodwork to be found in various public spaces, the work of master craftsmen making such perfect joints that, for long stretches, there’s not a single nail to be found.

The fourth Ritz-Carlton in Japan, a golf-oriented resort in Okinawa, is defined by the landscape itself, in particular its views of the China Sea, and its design and furnishings enhance the sense of place through touches that include red Ryukyuan tiles and traditional white castle walls, details that were inspired by Shuri Castle, a historic local Okinawan landmark

The drive toward local authenticity is also embodied in the food service at the properties, from the Michelin-starred Tempura Mizuki in Kyoto to the newly-opened Towers restaurant within the midtown Tokyo property. Even the informal food presentations for guests staying on the club levels, an option offered at the larger hotels, aim for local authenticity. (Though not rigidly. We enjoyed a winkingly non-authentic culinary moment in Tokyo when Ms. Kanae Hiraoji, a club level chef, showed us the secret of her uniquely fluffy waffles: build a croissant and then, instead of baking it, squeeze it into a waffle iron and let it cook.) 

The power of programming: It’s all in the (local) experience

One way that these hotels embrace local authenticity is by arranging uniquely local experiences in which guests can actively participate. These can be within the hotels themselves, such as the Samurai lesson my son enjoyed at the Kyoto hotel, or the impromptu lesson in Japanese (including the latest slang) we received from the attentive employee serving our hotel breakfast in Tokyo. Just as often, though, the hotels encourage their guests to venture beyond their sliding doors and experience more of the locale.

At the Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo, the Ladies and Gentlemen (as they refer to themselves), including Chief Concierge Masako Ito and the tireless Maaya Arakawa, had us visiting-in the wee small hours before the throngs arrived-the legendary Tsukiji Fish Market, sending us there in the care of a notable sushi chef, Hisashi Udatsu. We then headed over to Chef Udatsu’s tiny-but-lovely Sushi-To restaurant, where Mr. Udatsu, late of the Michelin-starred Ginza, schooled us in sushi-making, in a lesson that incorporated the morning’s fish purchases.

(The upshot, I confess, was discovering my son to be a natural at the skills involved: slicing the fish, manipulating the rice, and rolling the seaweed-and finding myself to be monumentally, comically hapless at the same. The sushi I made was not recognizable as such, though it tasted fine-if I closed my eyes-and I am perversely proud of the chef’s jacket they gave me as a souvenir.)

Often, when providing for locally authentic programming outside the hotel, a hotel will partner with a locally knowledgeable guide. In Kyoto we were connected with the plucky and learned Duncan Flett, whose knowledge and doggedness connected us with discoveries we would never have made on our own. These included a visit to a 1,000-year-old mochi maker (curling up by the mochi maker’s coal fire in the chill of the day was as magical as the mochi itself) and the chance to share an authentic tea ceremony with a Japanese family in a traditional pre-war wooden house.

In Osaka, the local experiences that hotel employees connected us with centered on the local street-food scene, where we were helped to discover delicacies and curiosities that included an assortment of plum delicacies created to honor the local Shinto shrine (most of which were to our taste, though one or two were best described, as my son put it, as “interesting”) and indisputably delicious treats such as Taiyaki, the famous fish-shaped dessert pancakes.

Which brings me to the Osaka property itself. This is the hotel with which, in May of 1997, Ritz-Carlton first came on the scene in Japan. It’s the property that made a name for the brand with a style of luxury that was new to the country (although pretty much in line with what the hotel company was setting out as standard elsewhere in the world). The look and feel were distinct from anything in the Japanese market at that time, with rich-hued woodwork, a roaring fireplace, and a genteel china and art collection, and the Japanese market rapidly embraced the hotel. At Osaka today, a recent renovation has been undertaken that is true to those roots while incorporating updates that show how guest tastes have evolved in the years since opening day; throughout the hotel-in the art on display, decor, landscaping, and cuisine-today’s guest in Osaka will find notably more local details than would have been in evidence two decades ago.

Micah Solomon is a customer service consultant, customer experience consultant, keynote speaker, trainer, and bestselling author. Click for two free chapters from Micah’s latest book, The Heart of Hospitality, or click here to email him directly, for an immediate response.

16 Startups That Have Reached ‘Unicorn’ Status in 2018

Amid the tech landscape, “unicorns” are few and far between. Last year, CB Insights tallied the odds of becoming a unicorn — a company valued at $1 billion or more — at under 1%.

But already, within the first few months of 2018, a total of 16 companies have overcome those odds and crossed the billion-dollar-valuation mark. These companies, originally rounded up in a recent report by Pitchbook, are working to transform industries like transportation, medicine, entertainment, data analysis, and farming.

While most of the companies that reached unicorn status are in the US, China was a notable contender with four companies making the list, and Romania celebrated its first unicorn to date — a robotic-automation company called UI Path.

Here’s the full roundup of 2018’s freshly minted unicorns:

As Tax Day Nears, bitcoin is Wreaking Havoc

Cryptocurrencies have had quite an eventful year, but it’s nothing compared to the free-for-all that is going on in the run up to Tuesday’s national tax deadline.

Industry experts believe that much of the recent volatility in the value of bitcoin may have something to do with tax time. You see, although bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are commonly referred to as a form of digital currency, in the eyes of the IRS, cryptocurrencies are capital assets, like stocks or commodities, and are therefore subject to capital gains taxes.

Over the course of 2017, bitcoin saw more than a 1,000% gain in price, creating some pretty significant capital gains for some investors. Tom Lee, managing partner at Fundstrat Global Advisors told MarketWatch that he estimates U.S. households saw about $92 billion in cryptocurrency gains last year. That would put them on the hook for $25.4 billion in taxes, under current law.

Given that huge tax commitment, it is possible that some investors would need to tap into their newfound windfalls to pay the tax man. If it sounds like a conspiracy theory, consider the data. At the beginning of the week, bitcoin fell below $7,000, a six percent loss in the currency’s total value. By Friday morning, with tax day drawing closer, it climbed back up above $8,000, the first time in two weeks it had surpassed that threshold. That has some analysts thinking the tax day theory might actually hold water.

“The selling pressure associated with tax day has subsided right now,” Ryan Taylor, the CEO of cryptocurrency software firm Dash Core told CNN. “As people get their tax returns, there may be new money entering the market.”

But bitcoin price volatility isn’t the only drama unfolding as we near the April 17 tax deadline. There’s also the looming threat of widespread tax evasion.

According to Credit Karma, just a handful of Americans have reported their cryptocurrency holdings. CNBC reports that, of the most recent 250,000 filers on the Credit Karma Tax platform, fewer than 100 people reported capital gains on their cryptocurrency investments.

“There’s a good chance that the perceived complexities of reporting cryptocurrency gains are pushing filers to wait until the very last minute,” Jagjit Chawla, general manager of Credit Karma Tax, said to CNBC. “I want to reassure people that it’s not as complex as it may seem at first glance and that Credit Karma Tax has a number of resources about how to approach bitcoin and taxes.”

That may mean that much of the $25 billion in capital gains taxes that Americans are estimated to owe on their digital currency holdings which will go uncollected. With that much money at stake, it would only make sense that crypto holdings will start to become a major focal point in IRS audits.

So whether you’re bouncing in and out of the crypto market, or simply taking a hope-and-pray strategy that the IRS won’t come knocking, it’s best to remember that staying 100 percent compliant is the key. Cryptocurrency is not going to fly under the IRS’s radar. Being diligent and reporting now will save you a massive headache down the line.

Why Your Network Matters More Than Your Skills (And How To Build A Strong One)

Eleven years into one of the most successful business podcasts on the air, circumstances changed for Jordan Harbinger. Thanks to creative differences, Harbinger found himself out of the company he helped build and left to start over from scratch.

From the outside, it looked like Harbinger, once referred to as “the Larry King of podcasting,” was able to rebound in no time. He launched his new eponymous podcast, The Jordan Harbinger Show, and picked up right where he left off, bringing legions of fans along with him.

I spoke to Jordan about how he did it and his answer surprised me. It wasn’t business savvy or his famous interview skills. He credits his quick return to the spotlight to one thing: His network. “They’re the difference between me recovering my business and being totally screwed.”

Today, Jordan Harbinger shares his approach to networking and how he leveraged his relationships to (quickly) rebuild his empire.

Dig The Well Before You’re Thirsty

Harbinger says you need to create the relationships before you need them. We’ve all been on the receiving end of an email that “pretends” to check in on you, when the person is just buttering you up for an ask.

This is the wrong way to lean on your network. The right way is to build up social capital over time. Check in with people consistently, not just when you need something.

“Creating relationships before you ever need them,” is key, says Harbinger. In fact, he recommends assuming, “you’ll never need them.”

“It’s like putting a tire in the trunk of your car before you get a flat,” says Harbinger. You don’t plan to get a flat. And, in the best case scenario, you never use the spare tire.

“You’ll start treating people differently because you’ll see connections everywhere, NOT just looking for them when you need them, which is too late.”

When you develop a genuine relationship with someone you’re not “asking” a favor, you’re leaning on a friend. This mindset helped Harbinger develop genuine relationships that led to people bending over backward when they learned of his situation.

Famous friends invited him on their podcasts and offered to be guests on his new show. Advertisers followed him to his new show. All the social capital he’d been building up over the past decade was paying off. Precisely because he hadn’t intended for it to.

“Relationships get deeper over time, so planting seeds early makes all the difference.”

But it doesn’t work unless you do this next part.

Always Be Giving (ABG) And Don’t Expect Anything In Return

The secret sauce that makes this kind of networking so powerful is ABG: Always Be Giving. Harbinger says you should, “Hook people in your network up with help, support, etc, WHENEVER you can, even if you have zero idea if they’ll ever be able to help YOU back.”

The old-school approach to networking we grew up with was, “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.” It was transactional and assumed that people didn’t do things out of the kindness of their hearts, but with the expectation that you now “owe” them and they will “cash out” in the future.

Harbinger says this doesn’t work in a connection economy. People can tell when you’re being disingenuous and they’re not going to actually be helpful if you need something.

You want to engender goodwill towards you, but that doesn’t work if you’re not sincere.

“Nobody owes you anything,” says Harbinger, “and if you act like they do, then you’ll end up poisoning your OWN relationships because you’ll get mad when they don’t uphold their end of whatever imaginary contract you’ve created in your head.”

Once you remove the “what can this person do for me” element out of the equation, you never have to think about whether someone is ‘worth helping’ but you just help everyone you can.”

This, he explains, is the key to building genuine relationships. You can’t fake it. If you want to engender goodwill towards you, you have to be sincere. Don’t keep score.

A Massive Advantage That Keeps Paying Dividends Over Time

When you’ve taken the time to invest in people you genuinely care about, you have an unfair advantage in business: You have friends.

Your network is your secret weapon. Especially if it’s made up of, “deep friendships and casual connections that are maintained in the right way,” says Harbinger. His story is a perfect example of how your network gives you “a massive advantage that keeps paying dividends over time.”

“When you help people without the attachment to anything in return, you’ll find all these opportunities you’d never have spotted before…It’s not about “what this person can do for me,” but rather, help people because you care and it’s the right thing to do.”

Why Crypto Is Being Sold as a Solution for Lower Real Estate Commissions

The real estate industry is known for its volatility. One market may be on its way up as another may be crashing to the ground. While real estate professionals and investors alike are used to navigating the ever-shifting ground beneath their feet, there’s a new real estate tech shake-up headed for the industry: cryptocurrency.

To get a better sense of the burgeoning relationship between real estate and decentralized protocols, I connected with co-founder Matthew Herrick at Deedcoin, an organization aiming to tokenize real estate transactions and, subsequently, reduce real estate commissions down to 1%. Our conversation touched on Deedcoin’s unique solution, as well as ways in which the industry as a whole is ripe for cryptocurrency-powered progress.

How do you think cryptocurrency can help people save money on real estate agent fees?

Herrick: Institutions have grown so large over time that some have neglected innovation. Meanwhile, the public has not yet had the technology to provide competitive options without corporate support.

Through decentralized ledgers, a group of people can join together and become a formidable alternative. Deedcoin is this crowd force of the real estate industry. We tokenize commission percentages and therefore giving the public the free market choice of what those should cost.

Homeowners can pay 1% commission through the Deedcoin Network, because we solve the marketing expenditure and customer acquisition problems for agents. Property sellers can utilize 50 Deedcoin to reduce the agent commission from 6% to as low as 1%. Buyers can use 20 Deedcoin to receive 2% of the purchase price back on any home.

Why did you peg Deedcoin’s initial launch price at $1.50 per token?

Herrick: Deedcoin are originally sold at launch for $1.50, but the whole idea of Deedcoin is to let the free market set the value of the solution. Using 50 Deedcoin lets buyers save 5% of their homes value.

For an average home of $240,000, this equates to $12,000 kept in an owner’s pocket while still receiving the same quality service through a local agent. We divided the ideal launch budget by the amount of token for establishing a wide user base through the launch and it came incredibly close to $1.50.

How much money did you raise for your initial coin offering?

Herrick: Deedcoin has been marketing to the public for just over 90 days and has sold just short of $1 million in DEED so far.

We have been southpaw in the way we have launched our project. Many ideas are coming to the token sale with an idea on a napkin called a whitepaper. The team and I think this is a major issue with the blockchain world.

We began in early 2017 in development, filing pending patents, building a platform, and recruiting a national broker network. Because we wanted to prove the concept before asking for money, Deed was a secret to the outside world until January 2018. We felt it was important to keep things quiet while we established the solution to avoid anyone with more funding beating us to market.

As regulation increases, I wonder, is Deedcoin SEC compliant? What about Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML)?

Herrick: Yes, we are SEC compliant. Compliance has been a top priority for Deedcoin since our inception.

Unlike many token sales, Deedcoin is for a large percentage of the population. To be specific, anyone who lives inside a home should own at least 50 Deedcoin to protect their equity when they go to sell.

Due to our wide user base, it was crucial to work within SEC guidelines and sell to U.S. people who are homeowners in our initial footprint. To remain compliant, we developed the concept with our own funding to launch the network, making it a usable product.

Very early in our process, we secured Thompson Bukher LLP out of Manhattan to guide us through every regulation available. We have spent so much time on the phone with attorney Tim Bukher specifically, our teams have become friends. Additionally, for our SAFT sales, we filed a 506D exemption to let the SEC know what we are doing and have a CIK number.

For AML and KYC, all users are screened on registration against the Reuters International database for various factors including watch lists and the politically exposed. The solutions are too great in this technology to let a war with regulation prevent innovation. We believe that working within the guidelines allows the industry to grow and regulation to evolve structurally to provide consumer safety with stifling innovation.

$3,900 fine, 10-year gun ban for Saskatchewan farmer acquitted in shooting death of Colten Boushie

Gerald Stanley has been fined $3,000, plus a $900 victim surcharge, and banned from owning firearms for 10 years after he pleaded guilty Monday to improper storage of firearms.

Police discovered the guns at Stanley’s property when they were responding to Colten Boushie’s fatal shooting, of which Stanley was acquitted.

At the hearing in a courtroom in North Battleford, Sask., a second charge relating to improper storage of a restricted firearm — a handgun — was withdrawn by the Crown, citing insufficient evidence.

The Crown and defence requested a $3,000 fine for Stanley, forfeiture of some of his guns and a firearm ban. 

Stanley’s lawyer, Scott Spencer, said the guns in question were “typical rural firearms” similar to those found on many farms.

“Mr. Stanley frankly wishes he never owned a gun … Mr. Stanley has no desire to ever hold a gun again,” said Spencer.

Photos of guns found in Gerald Stanley’s basement. (RCMP)

Stanley acquitted in shooting death of Boushie

​The Biggar, Sask.-area farmer was acquitted in February in the shooting death of 22-year-old Boushie.

Boushie was shot in the head after he and group of other young people from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation drove onto Stanley’s farm in August 2016. 

Stanley was charged with second-degree murder and after a two-week trial was found not guilty. 

The Saskatchewan Crown is not appealing the jury’s decision. 

Photos of guns found in Gerald Stanley’s bedroom. (RCMP)

Crown says 7 guns stored improperly 

The seven guns alleged to be stored improperly by Stanley, as listed in the court file, are a J. Stevens Arms Company 520 rifle; a .22-calibre semi-automatic rifle; a.22-calibre bolt-action rifle; a Winchester 1200 shotgun; a Lakefield Mark 2 .22-calibre rifle; and a Winchester 1894 rifle. 

A previous charge relating to a Ruger Blackhawk .45-calibre handgun was dropped.

A prosecutor for the Crown said none of the guns were disabled. 

The Tokarev pistol Stanley testified he was holding when it went off and killed Boushie is not among the guns listed. 

Stanley testified during his trial that he normally used that gun to scare off coyotes. On the day Boushie was shot, he and son were planning to shoot targets. 

Survivor of Quebec City mosque shooting doesn’t believe shooter is remorseful

Being able to lift up his five-year-old son is just one of the things Aymen Derbali is aching for, and can no longer do on his own.

The 41-year-old, who became tetraplegic after being struck by seven bullets, hopes the man responsible will receive a sentence that reflects the magnitude of the crime he committed.

“He terrorized an entire population; in that sense this was a terrorist attack,” Derbali said during the sentencing arguments for Alexandre Bissonnette, which continued in Quebec City on Monday.

Bissonnette pleaded guilty in March to six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder. He was not handed a terrorism-related charge.

Derbali was the first survivor of the deadly shooting at the Quebec City mosque to describe during sentencing how the shooting shattered the life he knew.

One of the 48 bullets Bissonnette fired that night hit Derbali’s spinal cord, where it is still lodged to this day.Alexandre Bissonnette wears a Make America Great Again hat of the kind used in U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign. (Court handout)

He said it is difficult to accept that his reduced mobility will likely prevent him from ever going back to his hometown, a small village in southern Tunisia.

“I will never be able to fall asleep in my home country again.”

Could have left more victims

Derbali said he arrived late for the Sunday evening prayer on Jan. 29, 2017, and took his usual place at the back of the room.

When he heard gunshots ring out, he turned and saw Bissonnette, “determined, professional, he wasn’t moving,” Derbali told Quebec Superior Court Justice François Huot Monday afternoon.

“He was determined to kill us all,” he said.

Derbali said the outcome could have been much worse if the semi-automatic rifle Bissonnette had brought to the mosque hadn’t jammed, preventing him from firing up to 30 bullets at a time, before having to reload.

The semi-automatic rifle Bissonnette was carrying the night of the shooting jammed, preventing him from firing up to 30 bullets without reloading. (Court exhibit)

“He could have killed many more people,” Derbali said, who fell to the ground after being shot in the leg.

The father of two tried, but failed, to reach Bissonnette, who reloaded his gun and fired at him six more times.

Doesn’t believe regrets

After hearing Bissonnette read a statement in March, where he said he regretted his “senseless act,” Derbali said he didn’t believe “for a second” that Bissonnette was sincere.

“It was probably to try and get a bit of compassion from the public, from citizens, saying he regretted what he did,” Derbali told Huot.

When the judge asked Derbali what kind of sentence he thought he should serve Bissonnette, Derbali asked him to take into account the fact the attack was carefully planned.

Evidence presented in court earlier Monday showed Bissonnette compulsively scoured the Facebook page and website of the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre in the month leading up to the attack, 12 times only in the hours before the shooting.

A report by Bissonnette’s liaison officer, presented in court on Monday, also revealed the 28-year-old idolized mass killers and had wanted to carry out a shooting since high school.

“I could have gone out and killed anyone, I wasn’t targeting Muslims. I just wanted glory,” Bissonnette told his liaison officer Guylaine Cayouette, during a meeting on Sept. 20, 2017.

Derbali said the fact that the mosque’s doors were open to the public made the worshippers an easy target.

“He took advantage of our naiveté, truly,” Derbali said.

The 41-year-old, who moved from Tunisia to study in Quebec City in 2001, said he is now determined to continue the humanitarian work he dedicated much of his life to.

Aymen Derbali is seen here with his daughter Maryem earlier this year. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada)

Before adjourning the day’s hearings, Huot made a point of congratulating Derbali for his courage.

“Despite all your suffering, and all your challenges, you still want to give to humanitarian causes,” Huot said.

“We should all learn from this,” Huot concluded.

More victims are expected to testify over the coming days, as Huot determines when Bissonnette will be eligible for parole.

Alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur’s latest victim came to Canada on MV Sun Sea to ‘protect his life’

Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam came to Canada on the MV Sun Sea in 2010 to “protect his life,” according to a Toronto man who was on the cargo ship with him — but instead Kanagaratnam ended up dead.

Bruce McArthur was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Kanagaratnam, 37, this morning. The alleged serial killer is already facing first-degree murder charges in connection with the deaths of seven other men.

At a news conference, Det.-Sgt. Hank Idsinga said Kanagaratnam’s remains were found in a garden planter at a home on Mallory Crescent, in northeast Toronto, where McArthur worked as a landscaper.

“I’m really sorry about him,” T. Pranavan told CBC News. “When we were in Sri Lanka, we feel our lives were gone so that’s why we came to Canada — to save our lives.”

Nearly 500 Sri Lankan asylum seekers were brought to shore off the B.C. coast in August 2010 after a three-month journey from Thailand on the MV Sun Sea.

Pranavan and Kanagaratnam were two of 492 Sri Lankan asylum seekers brought to shore off the B.C. coast in August 2010 after a three-month journey from Thailand. 

When we were in Sri Lanka, we feel our lives were gone so that’s why we came to Canada — to save our lives.– T. Pranavan

The passengers claimed refugee status due to the armed conflict between the Sri Lankan government and Tamil fighters, but were detained on suspicion that some of them had links to the Tamil Tigers terrorist organization.

Pranavan said he and Kanagaratnam both lost brothers in the war, and shared their experiences while on the ship. He said they didn’t really talk once they got to Canada but he saw a Facebook post about Kanagaratnam last year.

T. Pranavan says he travelled to Canada with Kanagaratnam on the MV Sun Sea in 2010. (CBC)

“I saw the pictures on Facebook that relatives are looking for him, so myself I thought maybe he was hiding himself,” said Pranavan. “I really feel bad.”

Pranavan said he’d thought Kanagaratnam might be hiding because his refugee claim was rejected.

Never reported missing

Kanagaratnam was never reported missing in Toronto, and lived in Scarborough before his death, according to Idsinga.

Police believe he was killed between early September and mid-December 2015.

McArthur is also accused of killing Selim Esen, 44, Abdulbasir Faizi, 44, Majeed Kayhan, 58, Andrew Kinsman, 49, Dean Lisowick, 47, Soroush Mahmudi, 50, and Skandaraj Navaratnam, 40.

Police say it’s unclear how Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam came into contact with Bruce McArthur. (Facebook)

Investigators identified Kanagaratnam from a photograph. The force took the rare step of releasing an image of Kanagaratnam, deceased, to figure out who he was.

A police source previously told CBC Toronto that the image came from a cache of images found on McArthur’s computer.

Police announced last week that they had identified the man and Idsinga said they spent the weekend working to contact family members, many of whom don’t live in the country.

Idsinga said it’s unclear how Kanagaratnam came into contact with McArthur, and he has no evidence linking him to the Gay Village, which most of the other victims had ties to.

Pranavan told CBC News he has “no idea” how Kanagaratnam could have met McArthur, but said life was hard for those who came to Canada on the MV Sun Sea.

“When we enter Canada we hope Canada will give us a bright future,” said Pranavan. “But we don’t get that much welcome to Canada at that time. We really feel sorry and sad about that.”