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Feb 5, 2015

Supreme Court Rules on G.O.B./Belize Bank International Arbitration Award

This morning the Supreme Court issued a ruling declining an application by the Belize Bank for enforcement of an award granted by the London Court of International Arbitration. The L.C.I.A. had ruled that government owes the Belize Bank for monies under a promissory note. But as we found out today, an award by an international tribunal does not amount to cash in hand yet, but the promissory note is very much valid. Today Justice Shona Griffith handed down her judgment in the matter. Mike Rudon was at Court this morning and has the story.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

This morning parties representing the government of Belize and the Ashcroft Group of Companies were in Court for a long awaited decision. Following an award of almost forty million dollars by a panel of international arbiters, the Belize Bank had applied to have that award enforced on local soil.


Denys Barrow, Attorney for Government of Belize

Denys Barrow

“When an international tribunal gives an arbitration award it is not like a judgment of the Court in Belize. It cannot be enforced by virtue of anything in the authority of the tribunal. It needs the authority of a Belize court which says that that award that you give, you may now enforce it in Belize as if though it were a judgment of the Court.”


The highlights of the decision were delivered in forty-five minutes. In the end the ruling hinged on one thing – Justice Griffith found that because the then government did not seek the approval of parliament in the signing of the promisssory note, government could not be forced to pay.


Denys Barrow

“The Finance and Audit Reform Act 2005 makes provision that there should be a resolution of the National Assembly approving loans of a certain amount because implicit in that is that if the National Assembly which votes the payment of all monies, approves the making of the agreement, then it follows as a matter of course that the National Assembly must intend to approve the payment of the obligation which is incurred. But if there has been no parliamentary approval, but simply the making of the agreement by the Executive, by the Government, then the question of getting paid is a separate question, and you cannot get paid unless the National Assembly approves the paying of the money.”


Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for Claimants

“With respect we disagree with the judge, but that’s the nature of our business. We put the arguments. The other side puts their arguments. The Judge analyzes it and I have to say that Justice Griffith did a very detailed and extensive analysis of the arguments and came down on the side of the government. And I think you heard her specifically say that it tipped the balance, so it was a very finely balanced argument.”


And because the decision was based on such a fine point, Courtenay is confident that the position of the bank will be validated – even if not today in this particular arena.


Eamon Courtenay

“The Belize Bank loaned money. The Belize Bank is out of pocket. So it is not that the Court has found that the government does not owe. An arbitral tribunal established that that money is owed by the Government of Belize. The sole question was a technical one as to whether there was compliance with the Constitution. At the end of the day I can tell you this. There is no Court that has said that the loan note is unconstitutional or invalid. In fact, you will recall that the Privy Council held that the loan note was not a violation of Section Seven of the Finance and Audit Reform Act, so I can expect that very shortly the Belize Bank is going to institute another claim, and we are going to sue on the loan note to recover the debt that is owed to the bank.”

Courtenay is confident of victory whenever the matter finally plays out. And play out it will, all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice. So while today is a victory of sorts for the government, it’s not the end of this legal war by a long shot.


Denys Barrow

“Oh absolutely not. We have every confidence that this will go to the CCJ, because I am sure that the Belize Bank will appeal and as the judge gave…with respect a brilliant judgment…she analyzed and outlined to us all the issues and it’s a finely balanced question. She held against the government on two aspects and held in our favour on one aspect which was the decisive aspect.”


Eamon Courtenay

The government and the Ashcroft Group of Companies have been involved in, for want of a better word, a war…a legal war…and I think it has been going on now for over six years, so one has to put it in that context. I think one has to look at the fact that insofar as this particular piece of litigation is concerned, this is round one. If the government had lost they certainly would have appealed to the Court of Appeal, so as you can expect we are going to appeal to the Court of Appeal. And I am fairly certain in predicting that whoever loses in the Court of Appeal will go to the CCJ.”


Mike Rudon reporting for News Five.

According to Courtenay, the bank feels vindicated that the promissory note is valid and binding on the Government and the bank will now seek enforcement of the promissory note as a judgement debt in the Belize courts, whilst at the same time appealing today’s decision on the enforcement of the arbitration award.

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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1 Response for “Supreme Court Rules on G.O.B./Belize Bank International Arbitration Award”

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