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May 9, 2018

Sunshine Holdings Makes Challenge for Piece of B.T.L. Compensation

After being halted at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Sunshine Holdings Limited, which owned over eleven million shares in Belize Telemedia Limited, is taking its case for compensation for the value of the shares to the Supreme Court. But it will have to overcome a number of hurdles, including that it was offered compensation originally and failed to respond; that the loan to the Social Security Board is effectively guaranteed by the Government of Belize, which now also owns Sunshine itself as a result of the 2009 and subsequent 2011 acquisitions of Telemedia; and that the 2015 Miami Settlement Agreement makes clear that no provisions are in place with regard to compensation. The first day of a three-day trial before Justice Courtney Abel concluded this evening and News Five’s Aaron Humes has this report.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

In his opening statement this morning, Senior Counsel Rodwell Williams, appearing for Sunshine Holdings, sought to establish that it, not the B.T.L. Employees’ Trust, is the rightful beneficiary of around one hundred and fifteen million dollars in compensation paid out on November tenth, 2017, in the wake of the final payment for the settlement of Belize Telemedia Limited, less twenty million in loans due to the Government and Social Security Board. But complicating matters is that Sunshine switched sides in the 2009 acquisition, ensuring that Government acquired the loans as well as the shares. And as established during testimony from Financial Secretary Joseph Waight, the Social Security Board had threatened to show the loans as “disimpaired” on its books if it did not receive Government backing that the loans would be repaid. Waight conceded that clause five point four of the Settlement Agreement signed in 2015 makes this specific reference to Sunshine, (quote) “The Government and the Trust acknowledge that the loans to Sunshine Holdings Limited… remain outstanding, and that the principal balances owed under these loans… and further that any liability for the investment loans is for Sunshine… which will continue to be wholly owned by the Government.” As has been noted before, the Attorney General is the second defendant in the case after Dean Boyce as Trustee for the Employees’ Trust, bringing up a curious case of a Government-controlled company suing the Government. Sunshine, Waight countered, is a limited liability company with its own management – B.T.L. chairman Net Vasquez and former Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel. The question remains: did Government err in promising to repay the loans, then tried to repay them through the compensation owed to the Trust? And, does Sunshine deserve to be compensated? The answers will hopefully come after the case concludes on Friday. Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

Also testifying was Rafael Marin, a senior employee at B.T.L. who is now a member of the Board of Directors. He said he was not aware of any communication with the Employees’ Trust except for union meetings and had come to the conclusion that the Trust was “a sham” and “bogus.” Nonetheless, he believes the compensation monies should be repaid to Sunshine. The case continues on Thursday and Friday.

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