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Jan 5, 2012

Luke’s Port of Belize taken over by a PIL

In the news tonight, after weeks of speculation, a take-over of major proportions took place which puts the privately owned Port of Belize in the hands of receivers. It is one of the biggest local companies to go under. Its previous owner, businessman Luke Espat, is said to be indebted more than sixty-four million dollars plus interest to Private Investment Limited (PIL) in respect of the port. Numerous other companies held by Espat such as Indeco, Crocland and the Renaissance Towers, have already been taken over by receivers when Espat’s multi-million dollar loans went into default with the banks. Early this morning before the start of the workday, the police were on guard at the Port, one of the last remaining major assets previously held by Espat. Around eight o’clock, the PIL receiver appointed over the port, Tux Vasquez and its new CEO Retired Major Lloyd Jones, arrived at the scene and assumed control of the business. Management, employees and the Union were notified. Espat and his attorney turned up later and disputed the legality of the receivership but from all accounts, business continued as usual. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has all sides to the story and starts with this morning’s events.

Luke Espat

Luke Espat, Owner, Port of Belize Ltd.

“I made it clear to my C.E.O. that the police will have to stay here because the day they move I am taking back my business.  So it is as clear as that.”

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Luke Espat saga involving the British Caribbean Bank for control of the Port of Belize Limited continued this morning as papers, specifically a memo written by newly appointed receiver Arturo Vasquez, were being served to the management staff of the financially embattled company.  In receipt of that letter was Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Christian Workers Union.

Antonio Gonzalez, President, Christian Workers Union

“I, Arturo Vasquez, of 109 New Road, Belize City, Belize, hereby give notice that on the fourth day of January, 2012 I was appointed by Private Investment Limited, a company duly registered and incorporated in Belize with its registered office situated at 60 Market Square, Belize City, Belize (PIL), as receiver and manager of all the property, assets and undertaking of the Belize Ports Ltd. and Port of Belize Ltd.”

Shortly before eight o’clock a detail of approximately eleven uniformed officers descended upon the property escorting Vasquez as well as inbound Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Jones unto the compound’s main office.  Standing outside, away from the activity taking place within the premises, was Vanessa Retreage and Carlo Masson, a pair of lawyers initially appearing on behalf of Espat.  The motion to usurp the company follows weeks of unsuccessful attempts at serving the administration its walking papers.

Arthur Saldivar

Moments later attorney Arthur Saldivar arrived on the scene.

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney for Luke Espat

“Certainly what’s going on in there is totally illegal.  There is no basis for the action that’s being taken at this time.  Certainly the situation is one that is creating little more than usual disruption to business this morning.  We have the situation where it was for sometime being rumored and certainly it was put forward that certain interests allied to Michael Ashcroft would be seeking to impose its will on the Port of Belize.”

…and that order has been passed despite Espat’s adamancy in standing his ground as the legitimate owner of Port of Belize Ltd. based on the validity of the receivership document which he contends is not a court order.  His security outfit, on the other hand, was clearly confused as to whose instructions it was to follow when Espat, along with Saldivar, granted the media an interview at the main entrance.

Antonio Gonzalez

The appropriation succeeds a credit facility, believed to be upwards of sixty million dollars, granted to businessman Luke Espat; one which bank officials maintain, as read by Antonio Gonzalez, is in default.

Antonio Gonzalez

“Under the powers contained in one: a mortgage debenture dated the ninth day of April, 2010 between BPL and BPPL of the first part and others as guarantors of the second part and PIL of the third part, recorded in Deeds Book Volume 12 of 2010 at folios 63-140 in the Land Titles Unit, Belmopan City, Cayo; and two: a deed of mortgage dated the ninth day of April, 2010 made between BPPL and PPL of the first part and PIL of the second part, recorded in the Deeds Book Volume 12 of 2010 at folios 2-62, the Lands Title Unit, Belmopan City, Cayo, dated the fourth of January 2012 signed by Mr. Arturo Vasquez.”

Espat, however, insists that his business is meeting its financial responsibility to the bank despite a failed venture which he says includes the very investors to whom he is indebted.

Luke Espat

“The port is current with its obligations.  The port had other interest with other investments surrounding the cruise terminal of which the parties involved are some of the creditors.  There were other arrangements made as far back as the end of 2009 which they have seemed not to honor because of other special interests.  Of course all this will come out in time.”

On the ground it was business as usual.  Towheads traversed the fortified compound where the containers they each carried were routinely checked for content.  While litigation is sure to follow the assumption of PBL the future of some one hundred and fifty members of the Christian Workers Union, mostly stevedores, hangs in the balance.

James McFoy

James McFoy, Representative, Christian Workers Union

“We work as partners; whosoever is the management of the port we work as partners.  Please understand that loyalty and partnership are two different things.  We di work as partners so that the operation can be successful and that is our aim and objective so that whosoever da management as long as dehn noh mash fi we corn we wah work wid yo.”

On June 29th, 2010 stevedores resolved a weeklong impasse with the management of PBL and the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement were ironed out where it concerns the number of gangs being employed and the compensation regime.  That existing agreement, says Gonzalez, will remain the established order.

Antonio Gonzalez

“We were assured by him that there will be no disruption of normal operations or any situation that will affect the status quo of members and employees at this stage meaning that normal conditions will remain and continue until we meet and discuss further the situation. The union will be on this issue for the better interest of our members.  We will defend their interest whatsoever.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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7 Responses for “Luke’s Port of Belize taken over by a PIL”

  1. Belizean says:

    what part of this give police a right to be harrasing the truckers inside the port yard and trying to hussle money from the drivers? Because that’s what some of the silly uneducated officers did.

  2. Eye In The Sky says:

    No worry Barrow will lose elections and Luke will get the Port back for about $500. Yes, five hundred dallah.

  3. busha says:

    @eye in the sky….. very true… this guys has survived with the worst of them, a real example of the ole boy network eh?, but I dispute your figures Sir, I would suggest a mere $1 dalla!!!!

  4. bzean says:

    Politics aside, this port needed to be rejuvinated. Regradless of who owns it something needs to be done. Try to get a container out of the port and you’ll hear things like the crane broke down, there is no fuel for the crance etc..The port is in tatters and the major shipping companies complain that Belize has some of the highest port fees in the world. Sound familiar? You only have to go to the Cancun airport to see that people rather go through Cancun that the Belize airport because of the exorbitant fees. Everyone should stop playing politics and the most efficient company/person should run the port and airport.

  5. spanglish says:

    PAY UP LUKE, AND STOP ACT LIKE A SPOIL BRAT!!! IF BELIZE BANK CAN TAKE AWAY POOR PEOPLE BELONGINGS FOR NOT PAYING, WHAT DI YOU EXPECT!!!!
    MONEY CAN’T BUY RESPECT DUDE!!!! SO PAY UP AND STOP BLAMING OTHER PEOPLE FOR YOUR MISTAKE OK, YOU ARE A MALPAGO!!!!!

    AS TO SALDIVER HE IS A VERY DUMB @$$ LAWYER, HIS MOUTH STINK AND EVERYTHING THAT COME’S OUT OF HIS MOUTH, HE REALLY THINK FOOL IS LISTENING!!!!!
    HE IS THE BIG DUMB FOOL, WHAT SALDIVER SHOULD DO IS MAKE SURE LUKE PAY UP HIS BILL, AND STOP TALK BS, BLAMING OTHERS FOR HIS MALPAGO STYLE!!!!!!!!

  6. fedup says:

    Guys luke might have defaulted on his loans but he’s no where near bankrupt…..he ain’t no fool….Novelos ring a bell???? These guys got away with bloody murder…..try multiple big time houses in the city n chetumal….smart move guys switching from house to house every other nite so ur not tracked……jaja….oh n having multiple cell phones too….

  7. raskhan says:

    How you call wa laywer da belize? wa hustling Thief!
    How you call luke espat? wa rich Thief!

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