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Nov 12, 2018

P.S.U. Headquarters is Sold Off to Asian Businessman by Belmopan CitCo

The Public Service Union is confirming that its headquarters and land in Belmopan have been secretly sold off on the cheap and the union is not taking it quietly. The PSU called a press conference today to reveal the details of the sale which they claim was carried out by the Belmopan City Council.  The new owner is a Chinese businessman from Corozal Town.  Now, the P.S.U. has had a lease for the land for seventeen years and had been in discussions to acquire the property until very recently.  But when there was no progress, a check at the Ministry of Natural Resources, revealed the sale was carried out a month ago, one day after the company was registered. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has the following report.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Sold from under their feet; the property on which the Public Service Union is headquartered has reportedly been purchased by an Asian businessman in what the executive of the labor organization describes as a dubious land transaction.  Sale of the prime real estate in Belmopan was finalized recently and upon learning of the deal involving the city council, the P.S.U. has come out swinging.

 

Dean Flowers

Dean Flowers, 1st Vice President, P.S.U.

“This is the Certificate of Incorporation.  As you can see, the company registered is Simplex Design Company Ltd. which, within one day, was able to acquire a property that we’ve been occupying for seventeen years.  The principal owner of this company is registered as Xin Ni.  So a Chinese, a Chinese national or Taiwanese, or an Asian national is now able to own prime property in Belmopan, the center of Belmopan.  Not a Belizean, an Asian from Corozal.”

 

According to the union, it took control of the property from Recondev in 1998.  In the absence of a municipal government at the time, the P.S.U. paid nothing until it entered into an agreement with former Mayor Anthony Chanona in 2001.  It has been occupying the land ever since, despite what appears to be a longstanding financial tiff with the Belmopan City Council.

 

Doreth Cayetano-Obermayer

Doreth Cayetano-Obermayer, President, Public Service Union

“That agreement was signed by the then Mayor Chanona, our then PSU President. Ms. Margaret Ventura, as well as it was witnessed by the then Prime Minister of Belize Honorable Said Musa.  There was a subdivision that was done shortly after and that subdivision then was renumbered.  The properties were then given a different parcel number.  The previous one was Parcel No. 1099.  The current one is Parcel No. 6061.  With that agreement came a valuation.  The price given to us for purchase at the time was a hundred and eighty-seven thousand dollars.  With the lease, we had agreed that we were going to do a monthly payment in order for us to purchase.  So the lease agreement indicated that we are leasing to purchase.”

 

In 2017, a revaluation of Hilltop placed its worth at approximately one million Belize dollars.  The city council then made an offer to P.S.U. to purchase the land for roughly five hundred thousand dollars.

 

Doreth Cayetano-Obermayer

“We then decided that we are going to go back to our current lease agreement which is valid for twenty years, so it’s going to expire in 2021.  With that agreement, we decided that we’re going to put up a counter offer because we had done some investments and some payments towards this property.”

 

Since July of this year, the P.S.U. has been in talks with the city council to purchase the property, after being informed that an offer of one million dollars had been placed on the table.  The sale to Simplex Design Company Ltd., at significantly less than market value, raises eyebrows.

 

Dean Flowers

“Simplex Design Company Ltd., registered to Xin Ni, from Corozal, Santa Rita Heights.  It raises some concerns of course because my good friend and former colleague in university, Mr. Hugo Patt, is from Corozal.  Also the Commissioner of Lands is from Corozal and I am wondering how is it that, and I am not saying they’re related in any way, I am just saying that it raises questionable eyebrows how an Asian national can buy property in the center of Belmopan.  Bear in mind, the city council, one councilor during one of our meetings mentioned that they have an offer of a million dollars.  This came out of the mouth of a councilor in one of our sessions.  “We have an offer of a million dollars, so there is no way P.S.U. is going to get this property for the hundred and eighty-seven thousand” which is a proper valuation considering all that we have done, the work that we have done, the fact that we had owned the entire, from the back to the front of the Ring Road.  Of course that was subdivided to allow the city council to use the basketball court.”

 

The property itself is rather nondescript and the adjoined buildings show signs of depreciation.  The land, on the other hand, is said to be worth a pretty penny.  General Secretary Fayne Nicasio shares details of a failed sit-down with the city administrator.

 

Fayne Nicasio

Fayne Nicasio, General Secretary, P.S.U.

“We were supposed to have a meeting with the city administrator to get our payment history that we had requested and whatever other information that he could have provided for us.  We sat at the city council for an hour and a half and nobody came to meet with us, nor were we invited in for a meeting.  From there we decided to ask the cashier for our payment history, we went to valuation to ask for our payment history and that’s when we saw our file with only the lease agreement in there and no payment in their system, nor on our file that we have made any payment from 2001 up to present.  So we decided to go to the Ministry of Lands and to request for our lease agreement Parcel 6061 and that’s when we found out that Parcel 6061 has been sold to Simplex Design Company Ltd on October 10th, 2018.  We then proceeded on to Company Registry where we then found out that Simplex Design Company Ltd. was registered on October 9th, 2018.  A day later, our headquarters, P.S.U. home, was sold to that company.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

 

The Belmopan City Council issued a release late this evening. While it does not deny the sale of the property, the council says that its records reflect that the union made only four payments of five hundred dollars since 2001.  The council says it has no records to substantiate what the P.S.U. claims that it had paid up to sixty thousand dollars since a contract was signed between both parties. The B.C.C. further claims that it had offered to sell the property to the P.S.U. for just over five hundred thousand dollars. There was a significantly less counter proposal from the union and so the council accepted another offer of four hundred thousand dollars.


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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