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Oct 20, 2005

BELIPO to challenge G.O.B. cancellation of registry contract

Story PictureFor the first time since the public outcry against reports that the privatised Companies Registry collected more than a million and a half dollars in government’s sale of Belize Telecommunications Limited shares to two Michael Ashcroft companies, the Musa administration has officially commented on the issue. This morning, I approached Prime Minister Said Musa for an on-camera statement regarding the registry. His initial response was to decline as he was “not ready for that” because he “hasn’t sorted it out yet.” But then the P.M. asked what kind of questions I had in mind. So I said I wanted to know things like, why was the registry privatised in the first place; was it put to tender; and what of the percentage split: that is, seventy for the privatised company and thirty for government? Questions, I told him, to clear the air. This is what the Prime Minister told me in response. And we quote: “That will not clear the air, it’s looking back and I prefer to look forward. We’ve done it, we’ve taken it back. For me to look back now is to go on the defensive, which I don’t propose to.”

Our next stop in Belmopan was the office of David Jenkins, a shareholder of the Belize Intellectual Property Office (BELIPO), which has run the operations at the Companies and Corporate Affairs Registry since it was privatised in July 2003. Jenkins also declined an on-camera interview, but for the record told News Five that: The only shareholders of BELIPO are himself, David Jenkins, and attorney Denys Barrow. The directors of the company are David Jenkins, Denys Barrow, with Solicitor General Elson Kaseke as Registrar of Companies.

And according to the name plate on the door, Mrs. Tsiisi Kaseke, the wife of the SolGen, is the registry’s manager.

Jenkins would go on to liken his contract to that of the arrangement between Belmopan and the International Business Companies Registry of Belize and the ship registry IMMARBE. The Belmopan businessman further maintained that Denys Barrow flew into the country today for a meeting of the board of BELIPO and the company will be issuing a public statement later this week. According to Jenkins, the government’s press releases this week referring to Cabinet’s decision to “end the arrangement” and ensure a full refund of stamp duty paid to the registry in connection with the government’s sale of B.T.L. shares to Ecom and Sunshine are “a knee jerk reaction” as their board discussions will focus on the “legalities of the termination of the contract.”

Tonight, that last statement appears to support claims made to News Five that the contract itself will make interesting reading. Our sources in Belmopan indicate that the agreement signed between the Government of Belize and the Belize Intellectual Property Office contains a clause or clauses that would make termination of the contract extremely difficult, if not impossible. News Five also understands that as part of the agreement, all employees of BELIPO are exempt from taxes.

All this comes in the wake of confirmation that Government paid two point two million dollars in stamp duties to the Registry on behalf of Ecom and Sunshine, the bulk of which was held by the Registry as its contracted split with the Government. What has yet to be explained is why did Belmopan pay the stamp duty in this transaction when it appears that the only beneficiaries are the private owners of the Companies Registry? After all, in March of 2004 when B.T.L.’s shares were transferred from G.O.B. to Jeffrey Prosser’s Innovative Communication Corporation, those stamp duties were waived. During meetings on Wednesday, the Musa administration announced that the present staff of the registry would be regularised as government employees and that from now on, all fees collected will go to the Government treasury with official Government of Belize receipts.

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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