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Oct 17, 2017

Belize Bank Makes Final Appeal for U.H.S. Money

Eamon Courtenay

The Caribbean Court of Justice opened its first term for the 2017-2018 judicial year with the appeal of Belize Bank Limited versus the Attorney General. The case concerns the long-standing battle for monies owed to the bank on behalf of the former Universal Health Services, now Belize Healthcare Partners Limited. The argument arises out of an agreement that was signed by former Prime Minister Said Musa back in 2004, which promised payment of a loan owed to the Belize Bank by Universal Health Services.  Litigation began three years later, when government entered into a thirty-three million dollar settlement after it became clear that the debt would not be paid off in its entirety.  Despite a judgment in its favor, the Belize Bank has been unable to collect on the arbitral award since the Supreme Court denied permission to make compulsory that decision locally. Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, appearing for the Bank in Port-of-Spain today, presented the argument supporting granting the funds to the Bank.

 

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for Belize Bank Limited

“Your honors, it is our respectful submission that there is one issue, really, for the court, which is: is it contrary to public policy for this court to grant leave to the bank to enforce this award. I have, as is my practice, prepared a speaking note for the benefit of the court and my learned friends on the other side, and I hope Your Honors have it; I propose to stick closely to the note. Your Honors, I think it is important to start with my paragraph four, where we identify four points which we say are common ground between the parties. And the first is that there is no prior legislative approval [that] was required for the government to validly enter into the loan note, and I provide the citation where that can be picked up. The question of enforcement does not arise until and unless leave to enforce is granted. The reference for that is page nine-six-seven of the record, paragraph seventy of the submissions of my learned friends. Thirdly, legislative approval is required for payment of the award as a judgment from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and fourthly, the obligation to lay a supplementary appropriation bill before Parliament would arise if leave is granted. Your Honors, it is our submission that taking these four points of commonality between the parties, the real question is if the court accepts these points, namely that there was no need for prior legislative approval; two, the question of enforcement and the question of laying an appropriation bill only arises after if leave is granted to enforce; and it is accepted that the prior legislative approval is required for monies to come out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to meet a judgment, we are then thrown to the sole issue: is this court’s grant of leave contrary to public policy?”

 

The matter is also the subject of appearances in the U.S. court, which have ruled in favor of enforcement against Belize assets there.

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