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Sep 14, 2015

G.O.B. Settles Compensation for B.T.L. 6 Years after Nationalization

Six years after the first nationalization of Belize Telemedia, Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced this afternoon that an agreement had been reached to settle compensation for the telephone company which the government first nationalized in 2009 and then in 2011. In the period leading up to the settlement, rounds of costly litigation have taken place. But that aside, the complex deal was personally negotiated between the PM on behalf of the government and Lord Michael Ashcroft on behalf of the former shareholders of B.T.L., Dunkeld and the B.T.L. Employees Trust and British Caribbean Bank Limited. Barrow and Ashcroft first met in Miami in May and the deal was finally agreed to last Friday. 

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“The Government of Belize has settled the B.T.L. issue.  We have reached an agreement with the former shareholders of B.T.L., the Employees Trust and with British Caribbean Bank Ltd.  I used the description that I just employed advisedly because Lord Michael Ashcroft has always insisted that he doesn’t have any financial interest in B.T.L.  I’m prepared to take that at face value but in the interest of full disclosure he was the person with whom I negotiated.  But he was doing this, according to his words to me, as a sort of Good Samaritan and on a kind of pro bono basis.  Anyway, after some marathon face-to-face meetings between the two of us and email correspondence that reminded me of the name of that movie Fast and Furious, the ink was put to paper last Friday and tomorrow we will take to the House, a bill for an act to appropriate further sums of money in order to pay compensation and will also take the Telecommunications Acquisition Settlement Act 2015. When we nationalized firstly in 2009, you will remember that we acquired both the shares in Telemedia and the loan that British Caribbean Bank, also one of Lord Ashcroft’s interests, we acquired the loan that the BCB had made to Telemedia at a time before the acquisition but which loan naturally remained on the books.  Recollect that our acquisition was challenged and we won at first instance and then lost in the Court of Appeal.  We did not seek to take that appeal to the CCJ, instead we re-nationalized.  We acquired a second time and on that occasion we actually attempted or did, we enshrined in the constitution the nationalization providing that as a matter of constitutional writ B.T.L. should always be owned to the extent of at least fifty-one percent by the government and people of this country.”

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