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Feb 5, 2015

Attorneys Denys Barrow and Eamon Courtenay on Nationalization Cases at CCJ

Denys Barrow

While this particular piece of litigation is just the first engagement in what promises to be a complicated and protracted war, another battle in another arena is nearing its end. Attorneys for the Government of Belize, Fortis and the Ashcroft Group of Companies recently concluded their arguments before the Caribbean Court of Justice. One aspect of those arguments is money which is being claimed by British Caribbean Bank, and another is the nationalization of the utilities. Today the attorneys for both sides spoke to us about their expectations when a ruling is handed down.

 

Denys Barrow, Attorney for Government of Belize

“Should the Court, if it finds the acquisition was unlawful, decide that it was wrong, but we will not give back the shares to the former owners. Instead we will order that damages for the loss they sustained as a result of the taking of their shares will be paid, and then the question will be what are all the factors that will go into the assessment of damages, so it is really a complicated matter and it was absolutely necessary for the court to hear all that all parties had to say. The government’s position of course is that the acquisition was lawful, and it was made lawful, or confirmed as being lawful, but the eighth amendment to the Constitution. The government’s further position is that even if it is unlawful, the CCJ should order that the shares remain with the government and the government pay damages for the acquisition of the shares.”

 

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for Fortis 

Eamon Courtenay

“What we laid out before the CCJ was a clear range of options which we are asking the Court to consider. Now there are many moving parts and many variables and it is complicated. So while we hope that the primary result will be the return of the shares there’s a lot of other things that the parties have asked for that if some of them or all of them are granted, the process will not end immediately. For example, the assessment of loss that is being suffered, is there a reduction in the value of the shares? All of that has to be considered after the judgment, so it is something that may not finish once the decision is handed down, but the primary issue is the return of property for which there has been no compensation.”

 

In the case of British Caribbean Bank, even if the CCJ finds that the government must pay, Courtenay says it is likely that the government will say it has no money to pay, which means another legal battle in the making. 

 

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