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Oct 10, 2019

Sedi Loses Progresso Heights Case in High Court

The court ruled today against Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington in a long standing case involving more than a hundred parcels of land held by Progresso Heights Limited.  Elrington owns shares in the company; the other shareholders are U.S. citizens Lawrence Schneider and his son, Adam.  While he did not show up in court for the judgment by Justice Courtenay Abel, Elrington has been ordered to pay three hundred thousand dollars for deliberately placing cautions on the land thereby preventing the company from conducting business.  Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay defended Progresso Heights in the matter.  He explains that the Foreign Minister had no legal rights to place the cautions. Here is Isani Cayetano with a report.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington was a no-show this afternoon where a significant judgment was handed down against him in the Supreme Court.  For the better part of a decade Elrington has been embroiled in a lawsuit with the principals of Progresso Heights Limited, a development company owned and operated by Lawrence and Adam Schneider.  This afternoon, Justice Courtney Abel ruled in favor of the father and son duo.


Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney, Progresso Heights Ltd.

“He ordered that Mr. Elrington had no lawful right to register the caution and the Belizean people should know that Mr. Elrington registered cautions on over a hundred parcels of land.  The judge said he had no right to do that, lawful right to do that and he ordered a thousand dollars for each one of those parcels that a caution has been on.  On top of that he ordered Mr. Elrington to pay one hundred and nineteen thousand U.S. dollars which was the specific loss that the company had suffered.  So that comes up to over three hundred thousand Belize dollars against Mr. Elrington.  In addition, he found that he should pay cost to the company.”


The case against Elrington, a shareholder in PHL, goes back to 2010 when he proceeded to place cautions on as many as one hundred parcels in that subdivision.  The Pickstock Area Representative maintains that the Schneiders acted outside of the law when they failed to comply with the requirements of the Companies Act.  In his arguments, Elrington referred to the articles of association that govern Progresso Heights Limited.


Wilfred Elrington

Wilfred Elrington, Shareholder, Progresso Heights Ltd. [File: September 17th, 2019]

“They are saying that they had, Mr. Schneider is saying that they had authority to speak on behalf of the company by virtue of the provisions in the articles of association.  But again, the articles of association gives him no such authority.  So really and truly, the very legal and technical position that we are taking is that the company, Progresso Heights Limited, is not properly before the court.  It has given no authority to have action taken and it has authorized no one to give evidence on its behalf.”


Elrington’s twenty percent stake in the company, in his words, constituted an unregistrable interest, thereby allowing him to proceed with placing the cautions.  Setting aside that legal position, Justice Abel found that the caveats were intentionally placed to hinder the sale of those parcels.


Eamon Courtenay

“The court accepted our argument that Mr. Elrington intended to cause economic loss and damage to this company.  As I have said before in the media, we had a witness statement from somebody in the registry who was going to give evidence, did not turn up to court, but her evidence was going to be very clear that Mr. Elrington went to the office, threatened the people in there that they dare not remove the cautions that he had put on the land.  Well finally, the company has been vindicated.  He acted unlawfully and he has now got to pay the price of loss to the company, as well as costs.”


In a previous interview with News Five, Elrington rationalized the placement of cautions on the properties by saying that Schneider and his son were attempting to frustrate the accounting process in order to slight him of his proper share of the company’s profits.


Wilfred Elrington

Wilfred Elrington [File: July 30th, 2019]

“We have not been able to get anywhere with the American directors because they have obviously been encouraged to try as long as possible to prevent me from being able to get a proper accounting and my proper share of the profits.  But there are legal means that exist that I could resort to, to deal with that sort of situation and one of the easiest was to simply place a caution on the properties so that they could not be sold.”


Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay attributes Elrington’s actions which have effectively stalled the sale of those properties to a contrasting characteristic of persistence.


Eamon Courtenay

“Mr. Elrington has a streak of stubbornness that is not based on law, logic or reason.  It is an irrational approach to things.  He clearly hates Mr. Schneider, the people who own this company and I do not expect that he will act reasonably.  I do not expect that he is going to act rationally.  He is going to have another appeal and I would predict that he is going to lose.  The judge just wrote a seventy-four page judgment, you heard the judge, he said he bent over backwards trying to find a way to rule in such a way that Mr. Elrington could not be found liable for the damages and could find none.  It was an absolutely unlawful, roguish behavior of Mr. Elrington.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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