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Aug 16, 2013

Another G.O.B. Takeover…this time Port of Belize’s Commerce Bight

Since entering into receivership in January 2012, Port of Belize Limited, under the administration of Arturo Vasquez, has undertaken significant expansion of its daily operations.  The company was appropriated from businessman Luke Espat by the British Caribbean Bank for failure to service a loan portfolio upwards of sixty-four million dollars.   Along with other assets, including an adjoining acreage in Port Loyola, as well as the Commerce Bight facility in Dangriga, P.B.L. was assumed by Private Investment Limited.  While development continued here in Belize City, progress remained at a virtual standstill in the south, as a result of ongoing litigation over a lease granted to P.B.L. for the property on which the harbor sits.  That case was also inherited by the receiver.  This morning, a release was issued by government stating that P.B.L.’s tenancy has been cancelled, following a Supreme Court decision in July of last year in which an injunction restraining the termination of the lease had been discharged.   News Five spoke with Vasquez, who confirmed receiving a letter from the Ministry of Works and Transport informing him of the takeover.

 

Arturo Vasquez, Receiver, Port of Belize Ltd.

“I got a letter today from the government saying that this is in effect and, of course, immediately after I heard from my Commerce Bight security that they were down in Commerce Bight taking over the property.  A little history is that this has been in court before.  There was an injunction on that property and that was lifted in July of last year, so the minute that was lifted obviously the government was in a position to do this.  This property is leased.  It was supposed to be leased to own but the port never got the opportunity to purchase the property.  So, basically what is happening today really is based on the fact that the injunction was lifted.”

 

Isani Cayetano

Arturo Vasquez

“Now, when PIL assumed Port of Belize Ltd. were you guys made aware by its previous owners as to why there was a delinquency in terms of developing the Commerce Bight port?”

 

Arturo Vasquez

“The case, there was a case already in the courts for that, as to the reasons why, and it’s a lengthy case, there were several reasons why development did not happen.  One of the main reasons I can recall is that the port never got the opportunity to purchase the property.  So, I would imagine that there is a little bit of hesitation in developing something that you are not sure you may end up owning.  I have seen in the documents where it was supposed to have been a lease to own.  I have seen where government has attempted on several occasions to take over the property and I have seen where that challenge had continued.  So, I would imagine that anybody would be a little hesitant in moving ahead with development if there is never a certainty that the property will become yours.”

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