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Oct 26, 2022

C.I.B.L.’s Attorney Seek Supreme Court Input on Seized $3.1 Million

Caribbean International Brewery will not see the return of its seized three million dollars any time soon. In fact, the company will have to wait at least three months before the courts make a decision. That is because their attorney, former Prime Minister Dean Barrow, submitted an application to have the Supreme Court’s opinion on certain aspects of the ongoing hearing. So, what should have been a clear-cut case has now turned into a constitutional battle. And, the urgency with which C.I.B.L. wanted its money returned is no longer a factor. News Five’s Paul Lopez reports.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

Senior Council Godfrey Smith, attorney for the Financial Intelligence Unit, and former Prime Minister Dean Barrow, attorney for Caribbean International Brewery Limited, returned to the Orange Walk Magistrates Court today. Magistrate Deborah Rogers delivered her determination on the admissibility of documents from the Belize Tax Service. The lower court ruled that she would allow the FIU to proceed with the evidence in their appeal.


Godfrey Smith

Godfrey Smith, Attorney at Law

“What happened today was the magistrate gave a ruling. When we were here last week Monday, we attempted to lead evidence from an inspector, inspector Lopez to show that there were tax evasion offenses. Knowing that once that evidence was led the case is over for Caribbean International Brewery, their attorneys took an objection. The magistrate asked for written submission on this and she ruled on it today. Her decision as that you can actually lead this evidence.”


Following her ruling, Senior Counsel Dean Barrow filled an application for a case stated, to have Magistrate Rogers refer his challenges to the Supreme Court for its opinion. Senior Counsel Barrow made his application on grounds of unconstitutionality. While the magistrate has ruled that the FIU’s application for further seizure was submitted in a timely manner, Barrow contends that his clients’ constitutional rights are being violated.


Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow, Attorney at Law

“But even if you concede that application was mad within seventy-two hours, the structure of the section of the act under which the application was brought, the structure and meaning of the section is clear, it is not just that you have to make the application to continue the detention within seventy-two hours. You must get the order for the continued detention within seventy-two hours. The thing makes it plain. You can only hold the cash lawfully for seventy-two hours. Her determining that no as long as you make the order in time, I can take as long as is necessary before I give an order for continued detention, that violates the section of the act and the section of the means what she says it means, that section of the act has to be unconstitutional.”


So, what does this constitutional challenge mean for the FIU’s application currently before Magistrate Rogers? Well, FIU’s legal counsel has been given until Friday, November fourth, to file its objection to Barrow’s latest application. And, even if the magistrate does not state a case, Barrow says he will file an application with the Supreme Court to oblige Magistrate Rogers to do so.


Dean Barrow

“This matter will not be able to continue, as I have signaled to her. My learned friend said I was threatening her. No, I was making it plain, that the state of the law is such that if she refuses to state the case I can still go to the Supreme Court to force her to state the case. I am telling you that without meaning to discredit the magistrates objectivity, the way things have been proceeding, rulings she have been making, I have concluded that we are in effect almost wasting time in trying to pursue this matter at this level.”


Godfrey Smith

“The case was simply an application not to seize the company’s cash, merely to hold on to it for three months pending investigation. It was never intended that cases of this sort would blown out of proportion like this. It is not a determination of guilt or innocence or seizure. If at some point down the road you find you have enough evidence, you apply to seize it. This was just to hold on to it for three months.”


So, off to the Supreme Court they go. But, it is anticipated that the matter will not be heard by the Supreme Court within the next three months. This would then make the FIU’s application for further seizure before the Magistrates Court irrelevant.


Godfrey Smith

“He is effectively saying magistrate, you must put this to the Supreme Court. But, in doing this he acknowledges that by the time the Supreme Court hears the matter it can’t be done. By the time you put in all the arguments and have a hearing, a decision, three months will be long long gone gone. So in a sense, as you rightly said, the case is effectively over. FIU wanted to hold on to the cash for three more months so that they can develop their case and they get to do that.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez

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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