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Sep 4, 2017

Why Was Andre Vega Compensated with Mosquito Caye Land?

Since this story broke last Tuesday with Amy Forte’s letter to Prime Minister Dean Barrow, there has been one largely unanswered question: why would the Ministry of Natural Resources, under then Minister Gaspar Vega, facilitate Andre Vega with compensation for land he thought he had acquired privately? And why would he just as easily give it back? The new revelations expand, but hardly change the scope of the case, as Aaron Humes reports.

 

Andre Vega

Aaron Humes, Reporting

The central question of this latest Vega land scandal is this: how does a swap of privately-owned land, even one fraudulently executed, necessitate Government compensation? After all, the documents provided to us, on their face, make clear that this is a private transaction between two individuals – the purchaser, Andre Vega of Orange Walk Town on the one hand, and the vendor, Amy Forte of Belmopan on the other hand. Neither ever actually met the other; according to Forte, there was no sale, because her signature on the deed of conveyance was in fact forged, and she owns no property on the island of Caye Caulker. Vega, for his part, through attorney Estevan Perera, states that the Ministry of Natural Resources agreed to compensate him by granting a “substitute property” on Mosquito Caye after it was found that the land on Caye Caulker was “unavailable.” The letter does not say under whose authority this agreement was made, whether it was put into writing, and why it was land for land this time, and not money as happened with the Haulover Bridge case where the land was bought by Government from Vega, who at least had title to it? And facing the possibility of a criminal act, Vega’s attorney’s letter to C.E.O. in the Ministry of Natural Resources Sharon Ramclam Young last Tuesday states that he is, “prepared to relinquish his rights to the property located at Mosquito Caye so as to prevent any further issues.” But the Prime Minister’s press release issued earlier on Wednesday, August thirtieth, makes clear that Vega has no rights over the land in Caye Caulker, nor the land which he was compensated with on Mosquito Caye.

Gaspar Vega

The Lands Department, the press release said, will move to cancel both Grant no. 175 of 2009 and the Deed of Conveyance to Andre Vega dated 17th February 2010. As well, the Department will cancel the title for seven acres on Mosquito Caye granted to Andre Vega as compensation for the fact that the land under Grant no 175 of 2009 was privately owned at the time of the Minister’s purported Grant and subsequent transactions. Such compensation, it said, cannot stand since the Deed of Conveyance that triggered the compensation was fraudulently executed and legally invalid. So the question becomes: did the Ministry knowingly compensate Andre Vega fraudulently? Was it ordered to, at a time when Gaspar Vega was Minister of Lands? And what else is unknown about this burgeoning saga? Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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