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Jul 23, 2014

B.T.L. and B.E.L. Nationalizations Heard at CCJ

Eamon Courtenay

The seemingly unending litigation involving the government’s acquisition of the country’s telecommunications and electric utilities became complicated long ago. But it may all be approaching an end, one way or the other, as this morning the Caribbean Court of Justice granted special leave to hear the matter before the end of the year. The C.C.J. is the court of last resort for Belize. In a nutshell, litigation has circulated around the legality, or illegality, of the nationalization of the companies. In May, the Court of Appeal upheld the legality of the acquisitions, and the decision was made by the claimants: Dean Boyce and the Trustees of the B.T.L. Employees Trust, Fortis Energy International (Belize) Inc. and British Caribbean Bank Limited to seek justice in the C.C.J.  The hearing was held via teleconference this morning, and a pre-trial timeline was established for submissions from the claimants and the government of Belize. News Five got comments from attorney Godfrey Smith as he exited the courtroom, but for clarity we open with comments from attorney Eamon Courtenay in May, following the decision of the Court of Appeal.

 

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for BCB Holdings/Fortis [File: May 15, 2014]

“It was not an overwhelming loss for my clients. As you know first of all it’s a majority decision. From what we have seen, just reading the last part of Justice of Appeal Mendez’s decision. Justice of Appeal Mendez went completely in our favour. He would have upheld…well he did uphold all the submissions that we made so I think that at least we have persuaded Mister Justice Mendez that the arguments that we presented were compelling and convincing. Mr. Justice Awich as I understand it ruled against us on all grounds. We haven’t had a chance of course to read what he has said but Mister Justice Sosa, the President, just concurred with him. So in terms of those who have given reasoned judgments, one was completely in our favour and one was completely against us. So I think the CCJ is going to have to have the final decision on this.”

 

Godfrey Smith

Godfrey Smith, Attorney for Dean Boyce/Employees Trust

“This is the continuation of the long outstanding nationalization cases against the nationalization of Telemedia and Fortis. We represent Dean Boyce and the trustees of the B.T.L. Trust. As you are aware, the last judgment did not go in our favour except for one portion that dealt with retroactivity and the exercise here this morning was merely to obtain leave from the CCJ and to do a time-tabling exercise to schedule the case for hearing. Essentially, we maintain the position from the beginning…that the acquisition of Telemedia was unconstitutional on a number of grounds. That continues to be the position and that is what will inform our appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice.”

 

The Caribbean Court of Justice has offered a tentative date between the end of November and the second week in December for hearing the matter.

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