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Jul 24, 2017

Second Half of B.T.L. Arbitration Headed to C.C.J. in October

One year ago, the Government of Belize began making payments to Dunkeld International, the B.T.L. Employees’ Trust and British Caribbean Bank Limited for the settlement of costs for the double acquisition of Belize Telemedia Limited in 2009 and 2011. The first payment, delayed after a dispute over the currency to be paid, rang up to sixty-seven million U.S. dollars. Of the remainder, a portion was to cover Dunkeld et. al.’s costs and the rest was to be put in a charitable trust to provide for projects for the benefit of the Belizean people. It has become clear that a greater amount of costs has been claimed than the remainder of the award provides for and at last check, the two sides are headed back to the Caribbean Court of Justice. The case is set for hearing on the sixth of October at the court’s seat in Port-of-Spain. Financial Secretary Joseph Waight was not available to answer our queries today and Prime Minister Dean Barrow remains out of the country until Tuesday on personal leave. But we take a look back at the pronouncements by the key players in this saga as to what each side intended and why it was not meant to be. News Five’s Aaron Humes reports.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

 

Following the monumental ruling last September, Government’s then-attorney Denys Barrow predicted – and lamented – a lost opportunity for the Government and people of Belize.

 

Denys Barrow

Denys Barrow, Attorney for Government of Belize [File: September 29th, 2016]

“The real effect is that the people of Belize have lost out on a number of millions of dollars which the Government negotiated with Lord Ashcroft’s companies, should have gone for the benefit of the people of Belize – that is the short of it; the other, more immediate consideration is the crunch it puts the country in as it regards the immediate availability of foreign exchange.”

 

But according to Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, it was no less than his clients deserved.

 

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for Dunkeld/B.T.L. Employees’ Trust [File: September 29th, 2016]

“Generally speaking, it is all the costs that have been incurred by the Trust and Dunkeld in fighting all these cases. Remember, this is property that was taken away. These people have had to fight for years to reach to this point, and therefore they are saying, the costs that I incurred in doing that, have to be deducted from the amount that you are keeping. This is a compromise; it’s a compromise let’s remember that.”

 

Whatever remained was to go to charitable projects proposed to the Trust by the Government under the Settlement Agreement, to which the Trust would agree or disagree reasonably. But as noted by Prime Minister Dean Barrow in March, they could not even seem to agree on who would get what.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: March 14th, 2017]

“What is happening now, is that, clearly, because, in my view, he has been checkmated, at least temporarily in terms of collecting on the arbitration awards, he is inflating, deliberately, those costs with respect to the Dunkeld expenses to try to get back at the Government; well, we are going to the mattresses. We will go to the C.C.J., I don’t think that the language in the agreement entitles him to say the liabilities are exactly what I claim them to be; no, man. A court will clearly have to determine what is reasonable and what is not reasonable.”

 

And that trip back to Trinidad was confirmed when the final figures came out in June – leaving Financial Secretary Joseph Waight in awe and wonder.

 

Joseph Waight

Joseph Waight, Financial Secretary [File: June 8th, 2017]

“We can’t pay it. And even if they urge us to pay it, we can’t pay it. But let’s not jump the gun and see how the process runs.”

 

Reporter

“You think it is an outrageous figure?”

 

Joseph Waight

“Completely. Completely. We haven’t seen the details.”

 

Reporter

“Have they given a breakdown?”

 

Joseph Waight

“We asked for it…”

 

Reporter

“…no breakdown has been given?”

 

Joseph Waight

“…just a figure and that is strategy in their part, I believe. Of course, any court would want to see the breakdown so we are asking for a breakdown.”

 

Reporter

“Is there a second payment due in the B.T.L. payment?”

 

Joseph Waight

“The compensation…this is it.”

 

Reporter

“But you all are in a regrettable position because you all already paid fifty percent. You have to pay a certain amount up front which was ten or fifteen percent, then you had to pay fifty percent on the remaining amount which leaves you in the forties. But you have to now get sixty percent out of the forty percent.”

 

Joseph Waight

“If anybody can do that, they are magicians noh? The CCJ did not see it our way, but we have to respect the ruling of the highest court in our law. We argued strongly against it.”

 

They may get a chance to try again. Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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