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Jan 15, 2018

C.C.J. Says Let the Sunshine In

This morning, the Caribbean Court of Justice heard arguments in the matter of Sunshine Holdings—the company which acquired shares in Belize Telemedia Limited using a Social Security loan in 2005. Back in October, the highest court refused an application from the company, acquired by the Government of Belize from the B.T.L. Employees’ Trust headed by Dean Boyce in both 2009 and 2011, to intervene in the case. Government wanted to have the compensation due to the Trust, amounting to nearly thirty-one million Belize dollars, paid to Sunshine to satisfy the ten million-dollar loan from Social Security. Even after the full compensation claim was paid in November, Sunshine instituted action in the Supreme Court seeking its share.  The Trust went to the C.C.J., claiming that Sunshine and by extension the Government were seeking a do-over of the case, but the five-judge panel did not agree, as Aaron Humes reports.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [November 2nd, 2017]

“That compensation in your hands, Mr. Trust, you’re holding that in trust for Sunshine. Because it doesn’t matter that you owned or you had the shares in Sunshine at the time. Sunshine is a separate legal vehicle, and the compensation should be paid to Sunshine. Alternatively, even if the compensation isn’t paid to Sunshine, you can’t get the compensation for the shares, for which we borrowed money to buy, and leave us with the liability to pay back the investment loans. So at the very least, we want you to pay back to Sunshine what was borrowed from S.S.B. so that Sunshine can in turn pay.”

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

Their case has been instituted, and today the Caribbean Court of Justice ruled that Sunshine Holdings deserves to be heard.

 

Adrian Saunders, Judge, Caribbean Court of Justice

“It is the view of this court that whatever merit there may be to the substance of this application – and we expressly do not decide whether there is or is not any such merit – we are unable to entertain the application. The Tomlin order cannot be used as a basis for proceedings to be instituted, or relief to be obtained by or against an entity that is not a party to the settlement agreement. Nor should the Tomlin order be invoked when all sides acknowledge that the payments ordered to be made by the Government of Belize to Boyce and the Trustees of the B.T.L. Trust have been made. We agree with the Government of Belize that in this suit, this court is now functus of issue. The underlying premise of this application appears to be the relationship between the Government and Sunshine, and the extent to which, if at all, they should be treated as distinct entities. Arguments on that matter should be addressed outside the framework of the Tomlin order, in proceedings in which Sunshine has a voice. The application is therefore dismissed, with costs to be taxed if not agreed.”

 

Representing the government, Solicitor General Nigel Hawke found success with the argument that the court’s function in the long-running Dean Boyce/British Caribbean Bank/Dunkeld International Investments/B.T.L. Employees’ Trust case was over as far as they were concerned.

 

Nigel Hawke

Nigel Hawke, Solicitor General

“They filed an application to the C.C.J., seeking to have the claim filed by Sunshine dealt with by the C.C.J., saying that we have abused the process of the court. Fundamentally, what the court has done is agreed with us that the court is functus, since the issues between the government and them are basically finished; the issues are now moot, since we paid all the monies in accordance with the order of the C.C.J.”

 

But the court, of necessity, did not consider the relative merit of the case, and that leaves an opening for the Trust and Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay. They accuse the Government as the ‘moving hand’ of Sunshine of seeking to manipulate November’s result after remaining on the sidelines through the main litigation of the case dating back to 2010.

 

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for B.T.L. Employees’ Trust/Dean Boyce

“It is a very strange claim because the government has agreed, by the settlement agreement of 2015, to pay the compensation to the Trust; it has now paid it to the Trust, and it is now seeking to get it back. What is strange is that the government also wants to keep the shares that the Trust had owned. So we applied to the C.C.J., to ask the C.C.J. to stop Sunshine from pursuing that claim in the Supreme Court; and the court made very clear that as far as they were concerned, we should fight it in the Supreme Court rather than starting it in the C.C.J. It’s all the compensation that was paid to the Trust and the twenty million dollars in the loans. It is a rather strange situation because, as you know, Sunshine, all this while, had not participated in anything – has never presented a claim to the government; has never said it was entitled to compensation. Sunshine is owned by the government; so what you have is the government, suing the government, asking the government to take away money from the Trust to pay to the Government. It is circular and we will be submitting to Justice Abel that it is an abuse of process and it should be struck out.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

The Supreme Court case is set for February fifth before Justice Courtney Abel. The Trust was ordered to pay four thousand dollars in costs. Sunshine Holdings is being represented by Senior Counsel Rodwell Williams, who did not appear in court.

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