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Nov 1, 2017

Eamon Courtenay Says P.M. Must ‘Come up’

Eamon Courtenay

The predicament that government now finds itself in, according to Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, is entirely the responsibility of PM Barrow, who privately negotiated the settlement of compensation package with Lord Michael Ashcroft in Miami in 2015.  As for the monies that were set aside for charitable work in the name of Belizeans, only a small sum has been earmarked for the Hayward Charitable Trust.

 

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for Dunkeld

“Well I think the situation is very clear.  This obligation of the government was established by the settlement agreement, the government was aware that they had to make the payment by the twentieth of July.  Their issue was on the question of how much U.S. dollars was to be paid and the dispute between us really was whether they had a right to determine for themselves what liabilities of Dunkeld and the trust they were going to honor.  Now that is entirely unreasonable and the court has rejected that position advanced by the government.  My clients took the very charitable step of having their liabilities audited, the agreement did not call for that but they did that of their own volition.  They used very reputable Belizean firms and the court has even praised the integrity and professionalism of the firms and so the courts was able to rely on those audits which is what we have been saying all along, the liabilities have been audited and the government should accept it.  Now there’s a payment of about seventy-eight million dollars by the tenth of November.  I am told that that’s about a quarter of the current reserves of the country.  That is a tremendous amount of money, but there’s a court order against the government and my clients expect that they will obey the court order.”

 

Reporter

“Sir now, in terms of the settlement, you know, when it was pitched in a public way and I know you don’t have anything to do with that, but when the prime minister made the public pitch about the saving grace of the settlement was that there would be tens of millions in a charitable fund for the public good.  Now it’s only fifteen million Belize dollars, I believe.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“Well I think it’s less than that.  It is, I believe, about ten point two million or ten point three million in the Employees Trust and a quarter million in the Hayward Charitable Trust.  So in terms of money available for charitable works in Belize it is quarter million dollars.  Insofar as the B.T.L. Employees Trust, they have about ten million dollars at least.  Once again, the question here is who is responsible for this state of affairs?  The agreement, as you know, was negotiated by the prime minister and Mr. Ashcroft, themselves, and then lawyers went to work to put that agreement into legal language.  The CCJ today, as well as they did before, have criticized the drafting of the agreement and essentially what they are saying is that the agreement is not what the prime minister said to the public it was.  Whatever he may have had in his mind is not on the paper.  I can only say that that is his fault, he signed it, he read it before he signed it.  The exposure of the country today is squarely on the Government of Belize under Prime Minister Barrow.  It is his agreement, not no old P.U.P. agreement that he likes to rely on, this is his agreement.  At the end of the day, however, the nation is being called upon to pay seventy-eight million dollars, U.S. dollars, in ten days.  That is a very, very difficult thing to do, but there’s a court order and the prime minister who signed it is the Minister of Finance and he needs to come up and come up now.”

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