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Oct 22, 2014

BISL and G.O.B. Back in Court

Eamon Courtenay

Belize International Services Limited, the parent company of the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize and the International Business Companies Registry, won the first round of a protracted legal battle with the government of Belize in the Supreme Court a few weeks ago.  On October first, Justice Shona Griffith ruled that BISL, prior to being taken over by government in June 2013, was indeed an international business company and was therefore exempted from taxes.  The decision effectively canceled a thirty million dollar tax assessment levied against BISL by the Commissioner of Income Tax.  This morning, attorneys for BISL and government were back in court over another related matter.  While BISL maintains that its constitutional rights were breached when the company was compulsorily acquired a little over a year ago, government wants the case struck out since it argues that it was in fact a contractual breach which may have occurred during the takeover.

 

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for BISL

“Essentially what has happened is [that] you will recall that government took over, forcefully we say, the registry for the International Business Company and the ships registry which were managed by our clients Belize International Services Limited.  And so the claimants have brought this claim saying that there is constitutional rights to the protection of their property has been breached, that the government used force and took over the registry and took away the balance of the contract, management contracts; there are seven more years.  And so we have brought that claim for substantial damages.  The government says that it is not a breach of the constitutional right, that it’s a breach of a contractual right and therefore the procedure that we adopted is wrong.”

 

Denys Barrow

Denys Barrow, Attorney for G.O.B.

“We maintain that the claim they brought should have been a claim for damages for breach of contract and should not have been brought as a claim for violation of the constitution.  And it is on that basis we said to the court it is an abuse of the process.  Force them to come the proper way and tell them they can’t come with a false constitutional law claim.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“In response to the arguments made by my learned friend Mr. Barrow, senior counsel, we contended very forcefully that in fact the government did breach our client’s constitutional rights and we are entitled to continue by way of a constitutional motion to seek damages and appropriate relief.  We also pointed out to the court that if she finds that this is a case that ought to continue as an ordinary claim for breach of damages that that is available and the rules provide for that and that she should reject the submission of the government that the claim should be struck out.”

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