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Aug 8, 2017

New Docs Reveal Pattern of Vegas’ Land Acquisition

A series of leaked documents from the Lands Department revealing another land grab by members of the family of former minister Gaspar Vega on Ramsey Caye and the Spanish Creek area of the Belize District, have been obtained by News Five. While Vega was still minister, members of his family engaged in an unusual pattern of land acquisition which enriched both buyers and sellers. They would buy up properties cheaply, hold on to them for a short time, and sell them off for a profit to themselves, but a price short of attracting stamp duties. We first saw it last year in the village of Carmelita, and while at that time it was condemned by Prime Minister Dean Barrow, there was no investigation ordered. Aaron Humes reports.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

Back in December, we showed you how members of the Vega family of Orange Walk apparently used others to acquire parcels of land in various places of interest across Belize. One thousand six hundred acres of prime farm land in the village of Carmelita was acquired across five years by members of the Vega family from the previous owners. A similar scheme was run with the Banos family of the Cayo district, said to be close friends and allies of the Vegas. In March of 2014, Ramon Rosendo Banos applied for a grant to block two of Ramsey Caye, one and a half acres, then sold it in July of that year for twenty thousand dollars to Eduardo and Alma Vega. He did similarly with two other blocks. His wife Miriam Merida bought block four in October for three thousand dollars and resold the next year for fifteen thousand – a nine thousand dollar profit, and she turned the trick with another block. The same goes for various family members of both the Banoses and Vegas. It was repeated in the case of parcels of land in the Spanish Creek area west of the Belize River in the Belize District. A few weeks ago, Prime Minister Dean Barrow was asked but said he had not seen the documents.

 

Reporter
“Land documents keep coming out in relation to  a land grab by the Vega family. These are being put out…”

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“You have to show me those documents. I don’t know what you are talking about, so I’m not going to comment on something that I have not even seen.”

 

Once again, the question is what would one family do with so much land. In the wake of the December Carmelita revelations, the Prime Minister conceded that such land swapping was wrong, although he felt it was comparable to similar initiatives in past administrations.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: December 14th, 2016]

“I don’t know that there is any need for an investigation.  If the facts are as you say and as the honorable member of Lake Independence has recited then that is to be condemned out of hand.  There is no need for any investigation.”

 

But as Cordel Hyde reminded during the presentation the Prime Minister referred to, the Vegas are deadly serious about owning as much of the Jewel’s land as they can.

 

Cordel Hyde

Cordel Hyde, Area Rep., Lake Independence [File: December 13th, 2016]

“You know Mr. Speaker, I believe it was Maya Angelou who said that when people reveal themselves to you, you should believe, because they would know themselves better than you could ever do. And it was probably four years ago that the Member from Orange Walk North – and it’s a pity he’s not here today – told world and country, said to Jules [Vasquez]; he said, “I am not a normal person in Belize.” And we laughed, we laughed; we took him lightly. But these folks are very serious folks.”

 

In the context of that interview, the then-Minister contended that his family was not getting preferential treatment, but the proof is in the documents. Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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