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Sep 29, 2009

Former minister freed of Misfeasance charge

Story PictureWhile the protest was going on downstairs, upstairs in the CJ Chambers, two former P.U.P. ministers were vindicated. Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh today ruled against a tort of Misfeasance in Public Office brought by the government against Jose Coye and Florencio Marin. It had to do with land transactions by CHEOP Enterprises while the two were in office. CHEOP Enterprises is an engineering company that supervised a subdivision project in Coye’s constituency, Caribbean Shores. But soon after the Barrow Administration took over the reins of government in 2008, the title holders for whom Coye had purchased land received letters of caution. While those cautions were cancelled in January of this year, government pursued the civil matter in court against Coye and Marin. Both Coye and attorney Francis Fonseca were pleased with the judgment.

Jose Coye, Freed of Misfeasance in Public Office Tort
“Well, I think the press is well aware that the present government has pursued systematically malicious persecution of myself and other members of the People’s United Party. This is what I have described as political apartheid in this country. This is not the first attempt at myself and my family, at our character to defame me. But there is one thing I still have the hope in, that this country seems to still have a good judicial system and it is here we will find our justice and I want to say yes I feel indeed vindicated once again.”

Francis Fonseca, Attorney for Jose Coye
“This was an action brought by the government of Belize, a civil action a tort of Misfeasance in Public Office against two former ministers of government. In defending that claim by the government, we raised two substantive submissions to the court, to the Chief Justice. One was that the tort did not lie against former public officers. We felt that the tort was one which only lay against present active public officers and two that the tort could not lie at the instance of the Attorney General. In other words, it was not a tort that could be brought, initiated by the Attorney General. It was a private tort that could only be brought by private citizens who felt aggrieved by the actions of our public officer. On the first issue, the Chief Justice did not agree with us. He felt that the tort could lie against former public officers. But on the second submission, he agreed with us that the tort could not lie at the instance of the attorney general, that it was essentially at its very core a private tort that could only be brought by private citizens who felt that they were aggrieved. And on that basis he dismissed the claim brought by the attorney general.”

CJ Conteh also stipulated that both parties are responsible for their own court costs.

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