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Dec 12, 2014

CCJ Wraps Up B.T.L./B.E.L. Nationalization Matter

Eamon Courtney

Today was the final hearing of the CCJ appeal concerning the nationalizations of B.T.L. and B.E.L.  Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, on behalf of British Caribbean Bank, replied to the arguments of the Government, which were presented by Senior Counsel Denys Barrow on Thursday. Courtenay told the CCJ that there was no legitimate public purpose for the government to acquire the company and loan from the BCB.

 

Eamon Courtney, Attorney for BCB

“I really want to emphasize to the court the importance of public purpose in the determination of this appeal. All the parties have presented to the court evidence that there is an absence of public purpose on the part of the government. The obvious case of course is British Caribbean Bank where there is a legitimate and existing judgment that establishes that there is no rational connection between the public purpose stated in 2009 and the loan. And we say with respect it is even worse when one looks at the public purposes in 2011 when it tries to connect to the bank. But when one goes to Belize Telemedia, again, you have a situation where a court has found that the dominant purpose behind that entire acquisition is to end, supposedly end, one man’s campaign to subjugate the will of a people and in ten days one simply says we are going to do it again because we did it wrong, but the reasons why we did it remains the same. We go to the case of Fortis and Your Honors, as my learned friend, Mister Fitzgerald has submitted, Fortis is an international public utility. In the case of Belize, Fortis has presented the evidence to show that there was no risk at the time. The government had prepaid its electricity bill in order to remove the very risk that is stated in the statutory instrument that is used in the order to acquire the property. The point I’m seeking to establish to the court is simply this, the determination of the importance of public purposes related to a rational and objective factual situation is vital for the determination of these cases and vital for the future of Belize in terms of the exercise of the power of the government to take private property where there is no public purpose, there is no legitimate public purpose. And finally Your Honors, where we began, I cannot but underscore to this court, the particular and unique circumstance of my client. We are talking about a debt; a debt is what has been acquired. There can be no doubt how much is owed. There can be no doubt that the government is obligated to compensate. It is arithmetic; the evidence is before this court as to what the debt was and the calculations. There is no lawful reason, Your Honors, why my client has not been paid. It is either you pay it—recognizing your obligation under the security—or you pay it by way of compensation. And we say with the greatest of respect that what we have witnessed and what this court is engaged with in so far as BCB is concerned is an abuse of legislative power. We cannot get paid simply because our rights have been taken away, our rights have been frustrated and no compensation has been paid. Your Honors, there is in my respectful submission a clear road in so far as BCB is concerned and in order to get to where we ought to be, our rightful destination, we ask this court to strike down the 2011 Act, strike down the 2011 Order and strike down the Eighth Amendment and give us our just deserves.”

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