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Jun 30, 2020

C.C.J. Rules that Government Unlawfully Acquired IMMARBE in 2013

A major decision was handed down today by the Caribbean Court of Justice in a one hundred and forty-eight page judgment. The  judgment from the highest court of Belize is one of the most blistering and damning on the Barrow administration, finding that its actions were high-handed in taking over the registries and not settling it amicably, amounting to an abuse of power that when taken together, weakened the integrity of the legal system.  For context, in June 1993, the government entered into a management services agreement with Belize International Services Limited for a period of ten years.  In May 2003, the agreement was renewed for another ten years.  Two years later, in consideration of three million dollars paid by B.I.S.L. to government, the agreement was revised and subsequently extended to June 2020.  But in 2013, the Barrow administration appropriated the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize, IMMARBE, as well as the International Business Companies Registry, both companies owned by the Ashcroft Group; years earlier, it had taken over B.T.L.   B.I.S.L. then sued government for breach of the agreement, seeking damages of forty-five million U.S. dollars.  Government argued before Justice Michelle Arana that the extension given to B.I.S.L. in March 2005 contravened the constitution, as well as the public finance law.  The claim was dismissed and later affirmed by the Court of Appeal.  The matter then headed to the Caribbean Court of Justice and this afternoon at one o’clock, Justice Jacob Wit handed down a resounding decision in favour of B.I.S.L.


Eamon Courtenay

Justice Jacob Wit, Caribbean Court of Justice

“The court orders therefore, A: that the appeal is allowed, B: damages are awarded to the appellant, Belize International Services Limited for the respondent’s breach of the 1993 agreement as extended by the 2005 extension.  The matter is remitted to the Supreme Court of Belize for assessment of damages, costs awarded to the appellant to be taxed in the form of an agreement certified fit for the two attorneys.  That is the decision of the court.  Is there anything that needs to be said, Mr. Courtenay?”


Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for BISL

“Yes, your honor.  If I may start by thanking this court for what I would describe very modestly as an impressive landmark decision on behalf of my clients.  I would ask the court to provide us with necessary assistance in order that this judgment can be effective.  Your honors are well aware of the difficulties different clients of mine have had with trying to collect and to progress judgments of this court against the Government of Belize.  I give you but two examples which cause me to say what I’m about to say.  The Cruise Solution judgment of October 2018 where this court ordered that taxes be remitted to Cruise Solutions, not a single dollar has been paid to date.  We have been struggling to do the accounting that this court has ordered but we continue to be frustrated.  The Belize Bank judgment for the payment of the Universal Hospital debt, not a dollar has been paid and we continue to struggle to get a dollar paid in an effective way.”

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