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Feb 9, 2018

Argument Continues over Responsibility for Sunshine Loans

The case of Sunshine Holdings and the B.T.L. Employees’ Trust was finally before a judge in the Supreme Court, albeit briefly on Thursday. The crux of the case is whether Sunshine is entitled to all of the compensation awarded last November to the Trust as part of the settlement for the acquisition of Belize Telemedia Limited twice over by the government, or at the minimum the monies needed to satisfy a pair of investment loans granted by the government and Social Security Board. But who really is responsible for the loans? Both sides were before the Supreme Court, which intends to settle the matter once and for all. Aaron Humes reports.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

Though it has been a peripheral part of the discussion of the overarching settlement of the acquisition of Belize Telemedia Limited for several years, some things are still not entirely clear about the role of Sunshine Holdings Limited, and the genesis of their current case against the B.T.L. Employees’ Trust and former board chairman Dean Boyce. Here is how Prime Minister Dean Barrow explained it for us last week.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: February 1st, 2018]

“Sunshine Holdings in fact is saying that the monies collected by the Trust with respect to the compensation settlement are monies that should have gone to Sunshine – even if thereafter Sunshine would have been obliged to pay out the bulk of it to the Trust. That’s a large part of the issue; perhaps even more important, Sunshine is saying that in the alternative, even if the compensation was not altogether payable to Sunshine, certainly the investment loans that Sunshine made to purchase those shares, for which the Employees’ Trust has received the compensation; those investment loans must be satisfied out of the compensation that the Employee’s Trust has received.”

 

Senior Counsel Rodwell Williams, appearing for Sunshine, was granted a continuation on a freeze order on the compensation funds and put in place an ancillary order. The full case will be argued in April. But the crux of the case is the genesis of the settlement in Miami, Florida, in 2015. Speaking to News Five almost two years later, Lord Michael Ashcroft said the brothers Barrow and Williams were involved in drafting what was later termed a poorly drafted settlement agreement.

 

Michael Ashcroft

Lord Michael Ashcroft [File: February 23rd, 2017]

“It was more general; it was – we wanted a settlement and there were some broad terms that were agreed. At that particular point, it then goes to the lawyers on both sides. And from the Government of Belize’s side, they not only had the input of a major U.S. law firm; they had the eminent Belizean Denys Barrow, and I think Dean’s own firm, Barrow and Williams, were involved in the drafting of the contract, and of course the Prime Minister himself is a very able and competent lawyer. So you had the Government team, then, doing all the detailed paperwork for the contract that finally emerged, and that then went to the House (of Representatives), and the House approved it, and that is the contract to which both sides have to adhere.”

 

 

Reporter

“Since when the B.T.L. Settlement Deed was first drafted, your name was called one of the attorneys who…”

 

Rodwell Williams

Rodwell Williams, Attorney for Sunshine Holdings Limited

“The settlement deed, you just look at it, and you’ll see the firm of attorney who is on record, and it’s not my firm. It is another firm, but it’s right in the document. But, we don’t deal with these issues outside. But, it’s in the document, the attorneys who represented the Government name is mentioned, for the parties for the Government side, and for the other side. It’s in the settlement deed, you just look at it. The settlement deed is law. This government fully disclosed it, it’s the schedule in the act, in the Settlement Act. You look at it if you care to do your job, and you’ll see it.”

 

And opposite number Eamon Courtenay made sure to hammer home the point.

 

Reporter

“What would you say to this interpretation that, okay, these loans were made when B.T.L. under the management and control of the Ashcroft Alliance, and so, why should the Government and people of Belize be on the lam this particular debt that we didn’t incur?”

 

Eamon Courtenay

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

“Isn’t that an interesting thing? Who signed the Settlement agreement? The Prime Minister of this country and the other signature on that is Rodwell Williams. They are the ones who signed the settlement agreement, and witnessed the settlement agreement. There is a clause, clause five point four, where the Government of Belize specifically says, Sunshine has these two loans; Sunshine will remain responsible for those loans. It goes further. All the compensation that paid to the trust should not be reduced by these two loans. So, when you asked the question, why should the Belizean people be on the lam for it? My brother, that question should be answered by Dean Oliver Barrow. His signature is on the settlement agreement, in black and white.  The sad thing about all of this, as far as I am concerned, forget the law. The sad thing about all of this is that there is a trust for the benefit of the employees of Belize Telemedia. Mr. Net Vasquez is a director of Belize Telemedia, and he is seeking to take the money that is for the benefit of the employee, and take it and pay to the Government of Belize. Something must be radically wrong with that. How can he be a director of a company that has millions of dollars for the benefit of the employees, in a trust, and he is fighting to take away the trust from the employees of that company. It’s stupidity on stilts.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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