24 Nov -

Survivor of 1986 West Edmonton Mall roller-coaster crash wants tribute

EDMONTON – It’s been 30 years since Rod Chayko was flung from a flying roller-coaster at West Edmonton Mall, and it bothers him still that there is no memorial at the site to honour the three people who died that day.

Chayko was the lucky one, the only survivor in the last car that jumped the track on the popular Mindbender ride on June 14, 1986. The car had been going about 100 km/h when it struck a pillar and hurled its four passengers to the concrete floor below.

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    The Mindbender — the world’s largest indoor triple-loop roller-coaster in the world’s largest indoor amusement park in what was once the world’s largest shopping centre — had also been billed as one of the world’s safest rides.

    It shut down for more than a year and, after safety modifications, remains a main attraction at the mall.

    READ MORE: 5 deadly roller coaster accidents

    Chayko, a 55-year-old retired welder, lives in Revelstoke, B.C., his once broken body a source of daily pain that he treats with medical marijuana. He kicked prescription painkillers more than a decade ago.

    Raw video: Rod Chayko, the man who survived a roller-coaster crash at West Edmonton Mall in 1986 that killed three people speaks to Global News.

    He’s been back to the mall several times over the years, on visits with his children and grandchildren. And although he won’t ever go on the Mindbender again, he doesn’t want to discourage others from getting on the ride.

    The crash was “an accident — plain and simple,” he says.

    But it’s one that should be remembered.

    “David, Tony and Cindy are dead and it changed my life forever,” says Chayko.

    “I think about it every day.”

    READ MORE: Amusement park injuries should be better tracked: safety group

    Chayko had been living in Fort McMurray when he and his friend David Sager, 24, of Calgary travelled to the mall for a night of fun. Chayko describes his friend as a thrill-seeker who liked fast cars and had just won an amateur strip-tease contest at a bar a night earlier.

    The pair were last to get on the Mindbender and sat in the last car behind Tony Mandrusiak, 24, and his fiancee Cindy Sims, 21.

    “I remember feeling it sway and grabbing onto the handle,” recalls Chayko. “The next thing, I was landing on the ground.”

    Watch below: He’s the lone survivor of a horrific and deadly roller-coaster crash at West Edmonton Mall 30 years ago. Now, Rod Chayko says the mall needs some sort of tribute to his three friends who died that day. Kent Morrison reports. 

    The crash shattered his lower legs, crushed half his left shoulder and broke his feet, pelvis, lower back and every rib on his left side.

    Doctors who couldn’t count all the fractures in his legs thought they might have to amputate, but opted to surgically insert metal plates so the bones might heal. After six months in hospital, Chayko stood in leg braces and married his girlfriend, Joanne.

    Chayko eventually ditched the braces and doctors removed the plates from his legs. He continued working for 15 years before he retired because of chronic back pain.

    Watch below: This Global News report from 1986 details an inquiry done into the fatal roller-coaster crash at West Edmonton Mall.

    A provincial inquiry eventually blamed the crash on a defunct West German company for design and manufacturing flaws. It found that four bolts had worked loose, allowing a wheel assembly to fall off the roller-coaster car.

    Chayko says he received an undisclosed settlement from the mall after the accident. “I’m famous but I ain’t rich.”

    And the mall gives him free tickets to mall attractions whenever he asks.

    But he has also requested a few times over the years for the mall to put a memorial bench near the Mindbender. Staff offered instead to put a plaque on an office wall, Chayko says.

    “I said, ‘No, no,’” he says. “To me that’s not a memorial.”

    Chayko says he doesn’t want to make a fuss, but is still hopeful the mall might change its mind.

    Tony Mandrusiak’s mother Bertha and her husband still live in Edmonton, but she can’t look at the mall never mind go inside.

    “If I go to the Misericordia [Hospital] or something, I look the other way,” Mandrusiak says. “It bring awful memories.”

    “I wouldn’t mind having a plaque,” she says. “All these people go there and I’d like them to know it’s not all fun all the time.”

    Mandrusiak says no one from West Edmonton Mall has ever got in contact with her.

    A spokesman for the mall declined comment.

    To honour the anniversary of the crash this year, Chayko ordered custom hoodies, with “survivor” stitched on the arm.

    Not every one knows his story, he says, but when he explains that he was on the Mindbender when it crashed, people nod.

    “‘I remember where I was that day’ — everybody says that one,” says Chayko.

    With a file from Kent Morrison, Global News

24 Nov -

Ex-cop charged with killing 4 men in gangland-style attack

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.  – A retired police officer has been accused of killing four men who went missing during a drug deal this year, and authorities have discovered the remains of four bodies on property linked to him.

Nicholas Tartaglione was arrested on Monday on charges of murder and conspiracy to distribute 5 kilograms and more of cocaine, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

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“While all murders tear at the fabric of our communities, when the alleged perpetrator of a gangland-style, quadruple homicide is a former police officer, that strikes at the heart of civilized society,” Bharara said.

Tartaglione, who used to work for the Briarcliff Manor police department and lives in Otisville, pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Mark DeMarco, did not immediately return a telephone message requesting comment.

READ MORE: Walter Scott murder trial on hold after juror blocks guilty verdict for cop

Prosecutors said Tartaglione participated in the killing of Martin Luna, Urbano Santiago, Miguel Luna and Hector Gutierrez in April in and around a bar called the Likquid Lounge in Chester while conspiring to sell cocaine. They said some of the victims were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“These four men had not been seen or heard from since the day of their alleged murder,” said Bharara, who hoped the arrest brought “some measure of comfort to the victims’ families and loved ones.”

Chester police Chief Peter Graziano said one or two of the victims had been involved in some kind of drug activity.

READ MORE: Minnesota cop Jeronimo Yanez charged with 2nd-degree manslaughter in fatal shooting of Philando Castile

He told The Journal News the four bodies were recovered in Otisville, about 60 miles north of New York City, on Tuesday on property rented by Tartagliano. He said the remains were being sent to the county’s medical examiner’s office for identification.

Tartaglione, who’s 49 years old, joined the Briarcliff Manor police department in 1996 after stints as a police officer in Mount Vernon and Pawling, The Journal News said. He retired on disability in 2008.

24 Nov -

Russia doubts killer of ambassador acted alone

MOSCOW – The spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday refused to offer theories behind Monday’s assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey but indicated that Moscow doesn’t believe the gunman acted on his own.

“We shouldn’t rush with any theories before the investigators establish who were behind the assassination of our ambassador,” said spokesman Dmitry Peskov, though he offered no theories about who those people might be.

READ MORE: Turkish police detain 6 after Russian ambassador killed

The ambassador, Andrei Karlov, was killed Monday evening in front of stunned onlookers at a photo exhibition in Ankara. The assassin, Mevlut Mert Altintas of Ankara’s riot police squad, was killed in a police operation.

WATCH: British Foreign Minister Johnson condemns killings in Berlin, Turkey

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On Tuesday, Russia flew a team of 18 investigators and foreign ministry officials to Turkey to take part in the probe. Their plane returned with Karlov’s body and his family home. Russian officials and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu who was visiting Moscow met the family at the Vnukovo airport late on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Turkey ambassador killing a ploy to wreck Syrian peace process says Vladimir Putin

Ankara has not made public any theories. But a senior Turkish government official, who spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details to the press, said it was unlikely Altintas acted alone.

WATCH ABOVE: Camera captures moments following fatal shooting of Russian ambassador to Turkey

The official said the killing had all the marks of being “fully professional, not a one-man action.”

Peskov told reporters that Moscow on Wednesday the Kremlin will wait for the investigation to wrap up before voicing any theories.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Russian State Duma voted on a resolution that urged authorities to take extra steps to protect Russian diplomats abroad.

24 Nov -

Sears online customers fuming over undelivered Christmas gifts

Nancy Hurstfield-Meyer is part of a group of online shoppers fuming over undelivered gifts purchased from Sears just days before Christmas.

“These are toys that the kids were looking to get for Christmas. They were on their list,” Hurstfield-Meyer told Global News.

Hurstfield-Meyer said she placed an order with Sears on Dec. 6 and that it was scheduled to be delivered in three to seven business days.

The Sears Facebook page has been inundated with negative comments from shoppers with similar complaints.

READ MORE: New poll says Canadians tightening their belts on gifts this holiday season

“I made a purchase on sears长沙夜网 for on November 23rd, their website confirmation said that I will receive my package within 3 to 7 business days. After that I haven’t heard anything from Sears,” Punit Godhani wrote.

“Worst customer service ever!! Ordered November 27th. Still has not shipped. On the phone waiting 45 min. Then I had to get transferred to another representative. Still waiting after another 15 min??? Ridiculous!,” wrote Tammy Stuckless Tetford.

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Sears told Global News gifts are being shipped out but that some customers were willing to wait until after Christmas. However, the retailer admitted others have also cancelled their orders.

READ MORE: Canadians plan to spend less on holiday shopping this year: poll

Hurstfield-Meyer got word late Tuesday afternoon that three of the four gifts have been shipped but there’s no guarantee they’ll arrive on time for Christmas.

“I placed an order Saturday with The Bay and it was in my doorstep on Monday, same with Wal-Mart. I placed an order Friday and it was on my door Monday. These companies are going to get my business going forward.”

-With a file from Tom Hayes

24 Nov -

Former reality show contestant Lisa Marie Naegle’s body believed to be found

A body found Tuesday in a backyard is believed to be that of a former reality TV show contestant who vanished over the weekend after attending a birthday party at a California beer hall.

Police and coroner’s officials searched at a home in unincorporated Lennox, near Los Angeles International Airport, after an acquaintance of Lisa Marie Naegle was arrested and indicated her body was there, police said.

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“We can confirm a body which we believe is Lisa Marie was discovered in a shallow grave at the suspect’s home,” police spokesman Sal Ramirez said Tuesday night. “The detectives strongly believe it is her.”

A motive for and cause of her death were not immediately disclosed.

Jackie Jerome Rogers, 34, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of murder after being questioned about her disappearance. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.

Naegle, 36, a nurse who lived in the San Pedro area of Los Angeles, was a losing contestant on the show Bridalplasty in 2010. She competed for a dream wedding and plastic surgery.

She taught nursing classes at West Los Angeles College, and Rogers was one of her students, according to the Daily Breeze of Torrance.

A police officer checks the identification of a man as investigators search a home for the body Lisa Marie Naegle, Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016, in the Lennox area of Los Angeles.

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Naegle had gone to a birthday party on Saturday night at Alpine Village, a beer hall and restaurant in Torrance. Naegle’s husband, Derek Harryman, said he texted her around 2 a.m. Sunday to see where she was.

“Within a minute or two, she called me,” Harryman told the Daily Breeze. “She sounded really, really drunk. She said, ‘I’m going to get some food and then I’ll be home.’ ”

She never arrived and didn’t show up to teach.

Harryman and Naegle’s sister filed a missing person’s report and asked for help on social media in finding her.

The family said they obtained photos showing Naegle leaving the beer hall with Rogers and video that showed her getting into his sport utility vehicle.

“We went and we looked at the film and she left with him,” her brother, Rafael Chavez, told the newspaper. “He told everybody he left without her.”

“We begged and pleaded that he’d come to our home to kind of give us details on what time, where were things, and when he left her, but while he was talking to us and telling us his story, multiple different times he said he absolutely did not go home with her, or did not take her home,” Naegle’s sister, Danielle Naegle-Kaimona, told KABC-TV.

After being confronted with information that Naegle was seen getting into his car, Rogers altered his story to say that Naegle had gotten into his car but then got out moments later, the family said.

They then contacted police.

24 Nov -

Berlin attack: German investigators seek Tunisian man in Christmas market attack

BERLIN – German police are looking for a Tunisian man after finding an identity document under the driver’s seat of the truck that plowed into a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people, on Monday evening, security sources said.

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The document was in the name of Anis A., born in the southern city of Tataouine in 1992, the sources said, using a convention whereby suspects are identified by their first name and initial. The man was also believed to use false names.

A spokesperson for Tunisia’s foreign ministry said it was trying to verify the information. Daily newspaper Bild reported the man was known to police as a possibly dangerous individual, and part of a large Islamist network.

The pre-Christmas carnage at a symbolic Berlin site – under the ruined spire of a church bombed in World War Two – has shocked Germans and prompted security reviews across Europe, already on high alert after attacks this year in Belgium and France.

READ MORE: Berlin police release suspect in deadly Christmas market truck attack

The possible – though unproven – involvement of a migrant or refugee has revived a bitter debate about security and immigration, with Chancellor Angela Merkel facing calls to clamp down after allowing more than a million newcomers into Germany in the past two years.

Merkel, who will run for a fourth term next year, has said it would be particularly repulsive if a refugee seeking protection in Germany was the perpetrator.

Police initially arrested a Pakistani asylum-seeker near the scene, but released him without charge on Tuesday. Authorities have warned that the attacker is on the run and may be armed. It is not clear if the perpetrator was acting alone or with others.

The 25-tonne truck, belonging to a Polish freight company, smashed into wooden huts selling Christmas gifts and serving mulled wine and sausages, injuring about 45 people.

VIDEO: Global News reporter recounts Berlin attack

The Polish driver of the hijacked truck was found shot dead in the cabin of the vehicle. Bild reported that he was alive until the attack took place.

It quoted an investigator as saying there must have been a struggle with the attacker, who may have been injured.


Islamic State has claimed responsibility, as it did for a similar attack in July when a Tunisian-born man rammed a truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice. Eighty-six people were killed, and the driver was shot dead by police.

The head of the Association of German Criminal Detectives, Andre Schulz, told German television late on Tuesday that police hoped to make another arrest soon.

VIDEO: Interview with Global reporter in Berlin the day after truck attack

“I am relatively confident that we will perhaps tomorrow or in the near future be able to present a new suspect,” he said.

Police arrested another suspect in the early hours of Wednesday morning but later released him, broadcaster rbb reported.

Wednesday’s Passauer Neue Presse quoted the head of the group of interior ministers from Germany’s 16 federal states, Klaus Bouillon, as saying tougher security measures were needed.

“We want to raise the police presence and strengthen the protection of Christmas markets. We will have more patrols. Officers will have machine guns. We want to make access to markets more difficult, with vehicles parked across them,” Bouillon told the paper.

The Interior Minister in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia said he would hold a news conference at 3.30 p.m. “on current events.”

READ MORE: Berlin attack: First victim was truck driver who was dedicated to his job


Some politicians have blamed Merkel’s open-door migrant policy for making such attacks more likely. The anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has gained support in the last two years as the chancellor’s popularity has waned, said on Tuesday that Germany is no longer safe.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told German radio there was a higher risk of Islamist attacks because of the influx of migrants in the past two years, many of whom have fled countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The task of tracking the suspects and the movements of the truck may be complicated by the relative scarcity of security cameras in public places in Germany, compared with similar countries like Britain.

WATCH: Berlin mourners sing ‘We Are the World’ at site of market attack

The German cabinet on Wednesday approved a draft law to broaden video surveillance in public and commercial areas, a move agreed by parties last month after a spate of violent attacks and sexual assaults on women.

State surveillance is a sensitive issue in Germany because of extensive snooping by the Stasi secret police in Communist East Germany and by the Gestapo in the Nazi era.

24 Nov -

6 hospitalized in addition to woman who died after overdosing at Toronto nightclub: councillor

Six young people were hospitalized after an “all ages” concert at a Toronto nightclub this weekend, a city councillor said Tuesday.

The illnesses are in addition to the death of a 19-year-old woman, who died after being rushed to the emergency room.

“This has been going on way too long,” said Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti.

One woman at the event described seeing someone being helped by staff.

“She went past and security was taking her out along with a couple of her friends, but they all had to like carry her,” said Jamie Lee.

“We thought that we were going to lose her,” said the father of a 16-year-old who was taken to hospital Frida night. She has since been released from hospital.

He didn’t want to be identified to protect his daughter, but he is calling for an end to “all ages” dance parties. Mammoliti is as well.

He said at “all ages” concerts there are overdoses no one knows about because of privacy issues, but he feels that information needs to be made public.

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“If we knew about all of the people who are OD-ing who are children – literally 13, 14-year-old children at these events – I think most people would change their position on this,” said Mammoliti.

But Toronto’s mayor said he doesn’t support a ban on all ages events.

“I’m not sure that is going to address the problem of the use of these drugs,” said John Tory.

The Drug Awareness Society of Toronto said in addition to taking a hard look at “all ages” parties, fatal party-drug overdoses should be reviewed more closely.

READ MORE: Woman dead, 16-year-old girl hospitalized after overdosing at popular Toronto nightclub

Those overdoses aren’t tracked by Toronto Police or the coroner’s office.

“The only way to really hone in on it and overcome it is if we work together and really focus on what is happening today,” said Bhawan Sandhu.

REBEL, which is owned by INK Entertainment, hasn’t answered any questions posed by Global News.

“REBEL has a zero tolerance drug policy, and also subjects every patron entering the venue to a full search. Anyone who is caught with an illegal substance is immediately denied entry,” said a spokesperson for INK Entertainment in a statement emailed to Global News Monday.

READ MORE: Drug overdose deaths continue to rise in B.C. in 2016

Meanwhile, Jamie Lee said any venue can only do so much. She also said it was a wild night and she has never seen anything quite like it.

“I don’t know. There’s a lot of people that had a bad batch of something,” said Lee.

What was just supposed to be a good time ended up costing one young woman her life.

24 Nov -

Christmas tree, pig bring cheer to stranded crew of ship anchored off Saturna Island

SATURNA ISLAND, B.C. – The stranded crew of an empty container ship tied up in an international bankruptcy issue received a shipment of donated holiday cheer Tuesday, including a Christmas tree, a 20-kilogram pig and 90 kilograms of barbecue coals.

Several maritime labour groups and members of Victoria’s Filipino community gathered up more than a tonne of Christmas provisions for the 16-member crew of the 255-metre Hanjin Scarlet, anchored off Saturna Island, about 70 kilometres northeast of Victoria.

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“It’s lonely,” said sailor Romeo Cabacang from the Philippines. “But all the crew, we are very happy for the early Christmas gift. We are very happy.”

Cabacang, 40, who is married with two children in Manila, said he’s been on board the ship for 10 months, but doesn’t know when that will change.

“Nobody knows when we are going home,” he said. “We don’t have that information.”

The South Korean and Filipino crew members have been technically homeless at sea since August, anchoring for months at a time outside Prince Rupert, Vancouver and the Southern Gulf Islands. They are being paid, but say they can’t afford to leave the ship and their jobs.

The ship’s captain, Jaewon Lee from South Korea, said his crew is in good shape and is patiently awaiting the bankruptcy issues to be resolved.

He said the crew is not going to shore because they need their rest and want to save money.

“Everybody well. Nothing problem,” Lee said in broken English. He added the ship has a solid Internet connection, which allows his crew to stay in touch with their families.

Lee said he expects the crew to roast the pig on Christmas Eve.

The sailors, dressed in bright orange coveralls and yellow work helmets, waved at the visitors and laughed loudly as they carried their cache of provisions to the top deck. The sailors cheered as the Christmas tree was packed up the steep, portable stairs that had been lowered from the ship’s deck.

The crew cheerfully helped unload the donated goods onto wood pallets which were then hoisted on deck with cargo nets and a crane.

Steve Hnatko, who represents a Vancouver area shipping service, said the longshore workers, ferry workers and other maritime labour groups gathered donations and delivered the goods from Vancouver and Victoria.

“When they came here they weren’t expecting obviously to be here for the winter, so they didn’t have a lot of warm clothes or anything else,” he said. “That was one of their first requests, anything warm.”

Hnatko said the workers went a bit overboard, adding gifts, drinks and special foods.

Jason Woods, a member of Vancouver’s International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said the donations are a message of hope to the stranded crew.

“The seventh largest shipping company in the world is bankrupt and these people here are the human cost,” he said.

Dozens of Hanjin container ships have been stranded in similar situations in waters around the world. Several ships were seized in California after unloading on behalf of creditors of the South Korean company.

In September, Hanjin’s lead creditor, Korea Development Bank, said it would offer a credit line worth millions to help the shipping company unload cargo that had been stranded offshore.

24 Nov -

Trudeau vows to ensure security agencies obey letter of law amid surveillance fears

OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau says his government will ensure security and spy agencies follow the “letter and spirit” of the law, amid mounting concerns they have trampled the privacy of journalists and other Canadians.

In a roundtable interview this week with , the prime minister stressed that national security agencies must protect Canadians but also safeguard the laws and values the public cherishes.

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Trudeau’s words come as the Liberal government wraps up a national consultation on federal security policy and they follow two recent episodes that heightened public concern about unwarranted surveillance.

It emerged last month that the Montreal and Quebec provincial police forces had been tracking the communications of several journalists. Only days later, a Federal Court judge found the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had broken the law by keeping and analyzing information about the communications of innocent people – potentially revealing data that was collected during investigations into actual suspects.

READ MORE: Canada contemplating allowing CSIS to use metadata from innocent people

There are also nagging questions about whether CSIS has used its considerable powers to monitor media members.

In the interview, Trudeau said the Liberals would “make sure that our security agencies and intelligence agencies obey the letter and the spirit of the laws that frame them.”

The freedom of the media to go unscrutinized in the course of their work “is something that I believe in fundamentally,” he added. “The only way democracy gets to work is if there is an informed population holding their political parties and leadership to account and that happens through a strong, independent free press.”

The words may provide a measure of comfort to wary civil libertarians who fear that security imperatives – not the rights of ordinary Canadians – are driving the federal review.

READ MORE: CSIS director says data not collected illegally, but welcomes court ruling

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told MPs at a House of Commons committee this month he was keeping an open mind as to whether CSIS should be allowed to retain and use the incidentally gathered data trails – such as phone numbers and email addresses – of non-targets.

Unlike the New Democrats, the Liberals backed omnibus security legislation, known as Bill C-51, ushered in by the previous Conservative government. However, in last year’s election campaign Trudeau promised to repeal “problematic elements” of the new law.

VIDEO: Government not sure how many Canadians had data collected by CSIS over last 10 years

The legislation gave CSIS explicit powers to disrupt terrorist threats, not just gather information about them.

It also created a new offence of promoting the commission of terrorist offences and broadened the government’s no-fly list powers. In addition, it expanded the sharing of federally held information about activity that “undermines the security of Canada.”

READ MORE: CSIS illegal data-keeping shows more oversight needed over spy agency, NDP says

The Liberal government has committed to ensure all CSIS warrants respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to preserve legitimate protest and advocacy and to define terrorist propaganda more clearly.

It has also introduced legislation to create a committee of parliamentarians to keep an eye on the security and intelligence activities of CSIS and more than a dozen other federal agencies.

Trudeau said the committee of seven MPs and two senators – cleared to see secret information – will strive to ensure these agencies are “protecting Canadians from everything we need to be protected from and that they are obeying the laws and the values that we hold dear as Canadians.”

24 Nov -

Kuwait announces annual Washington party will be at Donald Trump’s new hotel

One of the Middle East’s richest nations said Tuesday it would host its annual Washington party at Donald Trump‘s new hotel, underscoring the president-elect’s unusual status as the owner of a major venue for events in the U.S. capital.

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Salem Al Sabah, Kuwait’s ambassador to the U.S., said the party would take place Feb. 25, adding that he hopes guests like the “new hotel in town.” He said no one pressed him to move the Kuwaiti National Day event from its regular venue at the Four Seasons. Although Kuwait did not have a contract with the Four Seasons for the party, the date had been set aside for it to possibly take place there.

“I do not know President-elect Trump,” the ambassador told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “I do not know any of his people. None of his people have contacted me.” He added: “I thought would be exciting for our guests to see a new venue. It looks great. It looks cool. So let’s do it.”

READ MORE: Donald Trump’s kids offer access as a perk for charity donations

Al Sabah noted that last year’s reception occurred at the Newseum, a museum promoting the media.

WATCH: Why new Trump hotels won’t use the Trump name

Nevertheless, the move to Trump’s $200-million renovation of the Old Post Office Pavilion could reinforce questions raised about the incoming president’s possible conflicts of interest. House Democrats already have warned that they’ll make the splashy hotel a headache for Trump if he doesn’t dump his ownership stake before taking office Jan. 20. Trump has a six-decade lease on the property.

READ MORE: LeBron James explains refusal to stay with teammates at Trump Hotel

The Trump Organization is moving to remove thorny overseas relationships, cancelling hotel licensing deals in Azerbaijan, neighbouring Georgia and Brazil.

Al Sabah ridiculed the notion that he would choose the D.C. hotel to curry favour with the next administration.

“We have very deep economic, military and cultural ties; we’ve had tens of thousands of American troops in our country,” he said, noting Kuwait’s basing of forces for U.S. operations in Afghanistan and to fight the Islamic State group. “You think a two-hour reception in a ballroom does that?”

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