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Jun 12, 2013

Prime Minister explains nationalization of registries

Prime Minister Dean Barrow called a press conference his morning. He touched on a number of subjects, but the hot button issue was the recent take-over of two private companies. On Monday evening, government revealed via a press release that it had assumed control of the International Business Companies Registry and the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize. The move by G.O.B. has all the marks of nationalization and not surprisingly has resulted in immediate protest and notice of legal action by Belize International Services Limited (B.I.S.L.), the private company that managed the registries.  B.I.S.L. has produced documents proving that it holds a contract with government valid up to 2020, which would make government’s power play a breach of contract. The P.M. claims that the agreement is illegal and invalid. Mike Rudon was at the conference and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The agreement between the Government of Belize and BISL was first penned in 1993, and extended since then to 2003, 2013 and 2020. But the government has chosen to not recognize the extension from 2013 to 2020, claiming that it was made via a secret agreement signed in 2005. That document was signed by then Prime Minister Said Musa and witnessed by then Attorney-General Francis Fonseca.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“A secret agreement was signed between BISL and the then prime minister and the then attorney general who is the current leader of the opposition, the Honorable Francis Fonseca. And that secret agreement not only purported to recognize and validate the exercise of the option which Ghandi had already said was invalid, but as well it purported to extend the life of the agreement after the exercise of the option for another seven years…up to the eleventh of June 2020 for a consideration of U.S. one point five million dollars.”

 

But not only was that agreement secret, claims the PM, but it was illegal since it was contrary to various applicable laws including the Finance and Audit Act.

 

Dean Barrow

“We examined the document and the legal advice that my administration has received says very clearly that in so far as that secret agreement purported to extend the duration of the original ’93 agreement beyond 2013; it was wholly invalid as it was patently contrary to several of the applicable laws including and not limited to the finance and audit act, the financial orders, the stores orders and the control of expenditure handbook. As a result of that advice, we wrote to BISL in a letter dated fourth June 2013, rejecting this secret document of twenty-fourth March 2005 and reiterating our position that the agreement expires—in this case now, expired—on the tenth of June 2013 which as I recollect is Monday gone.”

 

And with the ‘secret agreement’ portion of the play covered, the PM turned to his favorite phrase in the handbook of nationalizations – the national interest. Barrow says that they had to step in because the EU is getting set to sanction Belize for illegal fishing in their zone.

 

Dean Barrow

“Apart from in our view, the illegality of the extension that Musa and Fonseca purported to give, we are obliged to move in particular because of our obligation to protect the larger Belizean national interests. We were having these serial problems with the European Union over the high-seas fishing fleet; the fishing fleet component of the IMMARBE registered vessels. E.U. had alleged illegal and unregulated fishing activities of these Belizean vessels. We are at a point where we are in danger of having our exports to the European Union stopped. We will put in place measures to regulate and control the activities of the IMMARBE fishing fleet. We are perfectly conscious of the fact that if those measures don’t work, we may as a last resort have to deregister the fishing fleet. We are not going to run any joke; we are not playing games. The fact of our exports to the E.U. having to be protected at all costs means that if we have to deregister the fishing fleet or particularly those fishing in the E.U. zone, we will do so. Only as a last resort, but people need to know about our seriousness of purpose.”

 

With all that said, the Prime Minister bristles at suggestions by the media that this is a nationalization. He claims that it is a horse of a totally different color.

 

Dean Barrow

“This is not a nationalization. This is not in anywise in the same category as B.T.L. and B.E.L. This is the government of Belize determining that the contractual agreement that these people had to run these two registries has come to an end. And that the secret purported extension signed by Said Musa and Francis Fonseca is of no validity and therefore the government has moved to assume control on a completely legal basis.”

 

Mike Rudon for News Five.

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2 Responses for “Prime Minister explains nationalization of registries”

  1. Devil's Advocate says:

    So, by “This is not a nationalization. This is not in anywise in the same category as B.T.L. and B.E.L. This is the government of Belize determining that the contractual agreement that these people had to run these two registries has come to an end. And that the secret purported extension signed by Said Musa and Francis Fonseca is of no validity and therefore the government has moved to assume control on a completely legal basis.” the PM is accepting that the BTL and BEL acquisitions were done ILLEGALLY?

  2. Initiate says:

    @ Devil’s Advocate: nationalization is not equal to illegality. So your ‘big’ revelation is short circuited.

    Futhermore, everything is illegal, just at different ‘category’. PM says this category is easy to win. That’s all.

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