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Mar 21, 2018

Gov’t Wins Case on Reduced Interest for U.H.S. Payment…

Eamon Courtenay

The Caribbean Court of Justice this morning issued judgment on the first part of a three-part application and counter-application by the Government of Belize and the Belize Bank Limited. The Bank is seeking that the Court enforce its judgment of November, 2017, in its favor for re-payment of a thirty-six million dollar loan initially granted to Universal Health Services, guaranteed by the Government. Last week, the two sides were in Port of Spain arguing their case at the C.C.J. headquarters.  G.O.B. sought a reduction of the post-judgment interest rate from seventeen percent compounded to the statutory rate of six percent, which the C.C.J. panel gave. But according to the Bank’s attorney, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, there was an offer made to Government in February to pay in installments and at a lower interest rate than offered today. The Government’s attorney says it is all moot, but is it possible the total payment could have been kept down? We have both sides speaking after the panel handed down its judgment.

 

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for Belize Bank Limited

“I don’t know why you describe it as a loss. I think one of the things that people should realize is that on the first of February, the bank wrote to the Government of Belize offering two things: firstly, to accept payment over term, over a period of time in installments, and secondly to accept payment at the rate of Treasury Notes that were issued by the Government. My information is that the rate  that was payable on those Treasury Notes was about three point seven-five [percent] to five point seven-five [percent]; so the offer that we had made was at a [lesser] interest rate than the court is now enforcing. So once again, I believe the Belizean people are paying a higher interest rate, six percent, than the Bank was prepared to accept. To your second question, I don’t think that the question of interest has any indication at all as to the court’s decision on the jurisdiction issue.”

 

Nigel Hawke

Nigel Hawke, Solicitor General

“The court agreed that since it was now at leave to enforce the award, it should be at the rate of six percent, so our position has been vindicated.”

 

Reporter

“And then as to the case itself, where the “Ashcroft Alliance” was hoping to press the Government or the Prime Minister to pay up immediately – how has that matter been handled?”

 

Nigel Hawke

“The court has expressly said that this is just a partial judgment in relation to the aspect of interest; they have not come to a conclusion in the aspect of enforcing the award, so we have to await the judgment of the court on that.”

 

Reporter

“Sir, however on the first point about the six percent, the other side is saying it’s not a victory for the Government; they’re saying that they presented a three-point-something percent and what the court is now indicating is six percent.”

 

Nigel Hawke

“I wouldn’t get into that argument here; I would simply say is that our position has been vindicated; that we’re saying in terms of the post-judgment interest, it is now at six percent and not seventeen percent compounded.”

 

Reporter

“So you won’t say if the other side did submit a proposal for it to go down below the six percent and that wasn’t accepted by the Government?”

 

Nigel Hawke

“What I’m simply saying is I don’t want to try the case in the media, that’s all I’m saying. The court has ruled that it’s now six percent, so going here or there doesn’t matter at this point.”

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