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Apr 13, 2005

Miami judge fines G.O.B. $50,000 U.S. per day

The latest ruling from the U.S. district court in Miami in the B.T.L. case came through today and it is not a good one for the Government of Belize. Judge Ursula Ungaro-Benages has held the G.O.B. in contempt and ordered it to pay a fine of fifty thousand U.S. dollars per day retroactive to March twenty-ninth. The meter keeps running until government agrees to permit the holding of a B.T.L. board meeting with four of the eight directors appointed by Jeffrey Prosser’s Innovative Communication Company. That meeting is scheduled for April eighteenth, and assuming Belmopan complies, it means twenty days of contempt. That adds up to a cool million greenbacks… due by the way, in ten days time. But is Belize in as big a pickle as it seems? Not according to attorney Barry Davidson, whose firm, Hunton and Williams, represents the government in the Miami courtroom. News Five’s Stewart Krohn asked the Florida lawyer to break it down in plain language.

Barry Davidson, G.O.B.?s Miami Attorney
?Well we are not happy with her conclusion. We are very concerned that she does not have a complete view of what?s been going on. I can?t say, it?s something that we?maybe all the parties have not been as helpful to her as they should have been. But our advice to the government, and we believe the government is going to do its best to in the very short term, you?ll noticed she said if the government will cooperate in regard to a meeting on the eighteenth the contempt fine will be purged, which means that it will be eliminated.?

Stewart Krohn
?I beg to differ with you Mr. Davidson. I know you?re the lawyer in all this, but are you sure that the word ?purged? simply means that it will be eliminated or that the clock will stop ticking and Belize will just owe a million dollars??

Barry Davidson
?It is our understanding under our law that?s what the word purge means.?

Stewart Krohn
?What then would be the reason for her to levy that fine if upon compliance she?s only going to remove it? What lesson is served by that??

Barry Davidson
?Very simple: to make sure we comply.?

Stewart Krohn
?So essentially, what your interpretation is, is that as long as the Belize government directs its four directors to attend the board meeting on the eighteenth, all is forgotten and we kiss and make up with Judge Ungaro-Benages??

Barry Davidson
?Well I think it?s a little more difficult than that. I think the Belize government will do everything it can to comply. When you start describing its four directors it becomes quite complicated. But I believe, and in the discussion Mr. Moreland and I have had with Attorney General Fonseca this afternoon, that we are going to do our best to comply on the eighteenth and get out of this little box we?re in right now and hopefully bring things back down to earth, as we would say.?

Stewart Krohn
?Where do we go from there??

Barry Davidson
?Where we are going up here is to put the Belizean Supreme Court opinion on the 90-D2 issue in front of her and ask her to adopt that reasoning in regard to how you will place the two 90-D2 directors.?

Stewart Krohn
?Has she shown any inclination to be receptive to that point of view??

Barry Davidson
?We haven?t advanced it yet. She has certainly said on a number of occasions in the many proceedings that we?ve had that she understands that interpretation of Belizean articles of association would be better left to Belizean courts.?

Stewart Krohn
?And I?m just gonna ask for you to clarify and repeat once again Mr. Davidson, what you?re saying is provided the Belize government goes ahead and attends the board meeting on Monday, it is your understanding that Belize will not be subject to one million dollars in fines for contempt of court.?

Barry Davidson
?That?s my understanding as she has written the order. If she means something different she better say it.?

According to Solicitor General Elson Kaseke, the government will comply with the order, but at the same time file an appeal and stay of execution on the payment of the fine. It is believed that G.O.B. will seek, along with minority shareholders, to gain control of a majority of seats on the B.T.L. board, based on an interpretation of the company’s articles that is in accord with the recent ruling of the Belize Supreme Court, which has held that Prosser is entitled to no more than two seats on the eight member board.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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