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Feb 7, 2019

Parcel 4670 is Crown Land, Not Property of Primrose Gabourel

The case of Dion Zabaneh continues to play out in the news. He is the businessman, who along with his mother, Primrose Gabourel, was taken to court for offenses relating to a property of one point three acres in the Caribbean Shores area, specifically parcel number 4670.  Zabaneh and Gabourel were taken to court by the Department of the Environment, which on Wednesday withdrew the four charges in the courtroom of Senior Magistrate Aretha Ford. Now, Zabaneh got in trouble with D.O.E. for filling up the parcel of seabed. But now that the charges have been withdrawn you would think the case has been settled.  Well, not so, because new information has surfaced from the Departments of Land and Environment.  News Five Duane Moody spoke to C.E.O. Kerry Belisle of the Ministry of Natural Resources and has the following report.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Parcel 4670 in the Caribbean Shores area of Belize City has been at the centre of a land controversy between titleholder, Primrose Gabourel—and her son Dion Zabaneh—and the Department of Environment. Almost three weeks ago, Zabaneh began filling in the Caribbean Sea, which their document says was lot 4670, the property of his mother. That title dates back to 2005 when that portion of the sea, one point three-five acres to be exact was issued to Gabourel.

Within months, an injunction was filed against Gabourel and the Ministry of Natural Resources in June of 2006 by private citizens, David and Virgen Medina. The Buttonwood Bay residents had applied to the Department of Lands for a portion of the sea in front of their property for an expansion project. But parcel 4670 encompassed that portion and more. The injunction, however, would later be lifted by a Supreme Court ruling back in 2016, squashing their hopes and giving way for Gabourel and Zabaneh to proceed with their plans. The development started on January eighteenth, after tens of thousands of dollars were invested in filling the seafront property.


Jeavon Hulse

Jeavon Hulse, Legal Counsel, Ministry of Environment [File: January 28th, 2019]

“The Department of Environment on January eighteenth issued an enforcement notice effectively ordering the owners of the parcel to cease all activity on said parcel and to restore the parcel to its original state.”


That action by D.O.E. officers was met with hostility from Zabaneh and the matter landed in the courtroom of Senior Magistrate Aretha Ford after which charges filed against Gabourel and her son were withdrawn.  It has been confirmed, however, that charges are being filed once again against the duo by the Department of Environment, this time having ensured that all documents are properly signed and filed.

But News Five has received documents which confirm that parcel 4670 is crown land and not the property of Primrose Gabourel. Following the injunction back in 2006, the Ministry had also placed a caution on the property.


Kerry Belisle

Kerry Belisle, C.E.O., Ministry of Natural Resources

“The property in question was purchased by the Primrose Gabourel party in December of 2005. Very shortly after, the ministry made contact with the purchasing party regarding some matters and issues with the land in question. Subsequent to that, in about June of 2006, the ministry issued a caution on the property, rendering it basically a property that was in question and required some discussion by the parties in terms of how we move forward.”


But was Gabourel not informed that the land had been reacquired by G.O.B.? According to Lands C.E.O. Kerry Belisle, the paper trail shows that the ministry went through the legal process to repossess the land; it was gazetted on November eighteenth, 2006 and then again on February third, 2007 with letters of notice issued to Gabourel, informing her of the actions taken and to visit the ministry so that she can be adequately compensation.


Kerry Belisle

“Later that year, the ministry started the process of acquiring the property and the early stages of that process was proceeded by a letter, based on our records, sent to Miss Gabourel indicating the ministry’s wishes to in fact acquire the property. Our records did indicate that the publication was issued in the gazette, I think about November of 2006 and a second publication was also done in February of 2007. Once that second publication was done, at that time, the property then became owned by the government. Later in that same year, 2007, somewhere around June, our records indicate that another letter was sent out. And I say that the record is on the letter indicating that the acquisition had been executed. So that in terms of the procedure to satisfy an acquisition; that was performed by the ministry back in that time and in fact, based on our records, those indications were made to the then land owner.”


While all this is documented in the land Acquisition Act of 2000, it is not reflected in the Land Register, which to date still has Gabourel as the titleholder of parcel 4670. So did the re-acquisition nullify the decision of the court back in 2016?


Kerry Belisle

“I don’t know if it didn’t mean anything, but I know at that time, the property was owned by the Government of Belize and my recollection of the judgement as I had seen it is that the judge made indications to the effect that the third party in the action should take up the matter with government. Whether or not that took into consideration the fact that the acquisition was done is not something that I can perhaps speak to, but in fact the acquisition was done in 2007 and at that time the parties were informed, at least from what we can see in our records. And I believe we will have to move forward in terms of how best to treat the matter now.”


Where there is a twist is that G.O.B. claimed that the property was reacquired for public purposes as stated under chapter 184 of the Land Acquisition Act of the Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2000. It’s been thirteen years since then.  Belisle could not comment on how that portion of the seabed was converted to property before it was issued to Gabourel back in 2005. He, however, says that Gabourel should visit the ministry to resolve the issue. Duane Moody for News Five.

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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