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Mar 27, 2015

Telemedia’s Claim on Channel 5 Struck Out

The Court of Appeal delivered a significant judgment ruling in favour of Great Belize Productions/Channel Five, Channel Overseas Investments Limited, Katalyst Developments Limited and Thames Ventures Limited along with several former directors of Belize Telemedia Limited. The appeal by the directors and the companies was over the acquisition and financing of Great Belize Productions, the parent company of Channel Five for more than ten million dollars which B.T.L. was claiming the former directors were liable for.  The directors and companies, however, argued at the hearing in November 2014 that neither they nor the ex-B.T.L. directors can be sued for their actions because they are protected by an indemnity clause in the Articles of the Telemedia and separate deed of indemnity.  The arguments were heard by Justices Dennis Morrison, Christopher Blackman and Minnet Hafiz-Bertram.  The directors and the companies had applied to strikeout the claim by Telemedia, but former Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Awich, refused. Today, the Court of Appeal overturned his decision and struck out Telemedia’s claim and gave summary judgment in favour of the directors and companies.  They also ordered that costs be borne by Telemedia. B.T.L. was seeking the return of Great Belize Productions to its portfolio of assets, arguing that it lost millions on the transaction. According to attorney for the former directors, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, the directors are not personally liable for the sums claimed. The decisions they made were in the interest of Telemedia and the Government appointed directors may not like the decision but they can’t come after the fact and try to bring personal claims against the ex-directors. Attorney Jose Alpuche argued that the companies themselves made no decisions, only the B.T.L. directors and those decisions were within their power to make.  In their ruling the Justices, adopted observations by CJ Conteh which states, (Quote) “It is important to bear in mind always in considering and exercising the power to strike out, the Court should have regard to the overriding objective of the rules and its power of case management. It is therefore necessary to focus on the intrinsic justice of the case from both sides: why put the defendant through the travail of full trial when at the end, because of some inherent defect in the claim, it is bound to fail or why should a claimant be cut short without the benefit of trial is he has a viable case?” (Unquote)  While they did not argue that the decision of the B.T.L. board in April 2011 was unlawful because the company is still in an ownership dispute, the overall nationalization cases were heard in December before the Caribbean Court of Justice and they will have a bearing on this case and others, settling claims dating back to the first nationalization by determining who ultimately owned B.T.L. and since when and for how long. Telemedia was represented by Senior Counsel Michael Young. On a related note, we note that it is Jose Alpuche’s first case against the Court of Appeal, which of course has had a good ending.

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