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Apr 29, 2021

Senator Courtenay Calls Nature Conservancy Transaction a “Nefarious Deal”

Eamon Courtenay

Inside the Senate on Wednesday, Senator for Government Business Eamon Courtenay went into details about the land agreement between the Government of Belize and the Nature Conservancy.  In his presentation, Senator Courtenay referred to the transaction as a “scandal” and estimated that inclusive of stamp duty write-offs, land tax write-offs, and speculation tax write offs, the former Minister of Land wrote off some six hundred million dollars in tax revenue payable to the government.  And, according to Senator Courtenay, the former Minster of Lands executed the transaction only weeks before the 2021 general elections.  These reports have of course raised eyebrows, considering the austere times Belizeans are facing. In response, Senator Peyrefitte asked for proof.


Eamon Courtenay, Senator for Government Business

“I need to go into the TNC scandal because the Belizean people must know why we find ourselves in this impossible situation today. Let me give you some details.  On the nineteenth of October 2020, after national assembly was dissolved, Hugo Pott, Corozal North, then Minister of Natural Resources, signed a secret agreement with The Nature Conservancy. I do not know if Senator Peyrefitte knew about it, but he will have an opportunity to tell us.  It could not and was not brought to National Assembly, because it had already dissolved. How was this nefarious deal structured? Big landowners transferred land, supposedly to a trust, controlled by The Nature Conservancy. And that trust is supposed to be for the people and government of Belize. How generous, but at what price? Two hundred and sixty-six thousand acres of land in the Orange Walk District is to into this trust controlled but the nature controversy. Hugo Pott, with the stroke of his pen, waved all the stamp duty payable on that transaction.  What was the value of the transaction, U.S. seventy-two thousand five hundred dollars.  One hundred and forty-five million Belizean dollars is the value of that transaction. And all the stamp duty was waved by Hugo Pott. The stamp duty payable on that was seven million two hundred and fifty thousand Belizean dollars, given away by Hugo Pott, with the stroke of his pen, without any national assembly approval.   It is a high crime to wave seventy million eight hundred thousand in land tax, one thousand four hundred and sixteen thousand per year, multiply it by fifty years, waved by you know who. It amounts to seventy million eight hundred thousand dollars waived, when we were suffering a COVID crisis. Speculation tax waved for fifty years. The land tax act says the speculation tax is payable in addition to land tax. The Belizean people must know who gave away three hundred and eighty-five million in speculations tax. The tax payable is seven million seven hundred thousand per year for fifty years, given away in the quiet of night without public disclosure by you know who.”


Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, U.D.P. Senator

“When you want to talk about the behavior of another member in the Parliament you need to bring a substantive motion to that effect. What Senator Courtney should have done, and he knows she should have done this, was to present to the Senate in advance notice that he was going to bring this up, and so that we can have a chance to respond and see what he was talking about. I would like for him to give me some contract that was prepared by Barrow and Williams, some signing. We need to see that, we have not seen any contract signed. I mean, so we do not know what that is about, show us so we can debate.”


Paul Lopez

“Is it something that if you see a final document, and in fact there are some questionable actions in those, is that something you would speak against?”


Michael Peyrefitte

“Of course, you ever know me to hold my tongue? I wah seh it. I will say what I need to say. And I will say that if something was wrong, it was wrong.”

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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