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Jan 24, 2023

A Closer Look at the Brads Boledo Dilemma

It is quite likely that the Government of Belize is headed to court should the Brads Boledo contract be cancelled by the Lotteries Committee in the days ahead.  It is a story that we have been following closely since the beginning of the year when we caught wind of a letter that had been written to the managing director of Brads Gaming Group Limited.  The initial correspondence from the chair of the Lotteries Committee raised a number of concerns that had to do with compliance.  This is in respect of an exclusive agreement for Brads to manage the Government Lotteries.  But with a pair of letters written by attorneys for Brads and Countach to the Minister of Finance, is the revocation of the contract imminent?  Tonight, News Five delves into the controversial arrangement between the previous administration and Brads, and what the People’s United Party government is doing in an attempt to undo that agreement.  Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The awarding of a lucrative contract to Brads Gaming Company by the Barrow administration in mid-2020, roughly five months before the last general elections, was not without controversy.  The exclusive agreement to be in charge of the nightly Boledo, as well as the Sunday Lottery Draw, collectively known as Government Lotteries, carries a ten-year lifespan which expires in 2030.  The fate of that arrangement, just two and a half years into its duration, hangs in the balance, amid what appears to be the current administration’s intent to have the contract revoked.


Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow, Former Prime Minister

“We all know that they’ve been after Brads from the time of the previous which is, or was, with a different company.  Before the elections, they had made no secret of the fact that that new contract that was given to the second incarnation of Brads in April or so of 2020 was very much in their sights.  In opposition, they had said publicly that when they get in they would do something about the contract.”


When the House of Representatives met in July 2020, several weeks after the contract had been signed, the matter was tabled, but excluded from debate.  In parliamentary language, this is referred to as a negative resolution.


John Briceño

John Briceño, Leader of the Opposition [File: July 24th, 2020]

“What is most cowardly is the way this has been presented in the National Assembly.  It was presented as a paper for negative resolution, meaning, in effect, that the prime minister has set this in the house, it has been tabled and nobody can speak about it, nobody can debate it.  In effect, he’s not giving one middle finger, but two middle fingers to the people of this country where he is refusing to have an open debate on a contract that has created a lot of controversy, a contract that this company has potential revenues of over five hundred million dollars over the life of the contract, for ten years.”


The People’s United Party criticism of the alleged cronyism that was involved in the awarding of the contract came at a time when public attention was focused primarily on the COVID-19 pandemic.  Nonetheless, the opposition vowed that once it took office, the controversial contract would land squarely in its crosshairs.


John Briceño

“So I want to, in effect, inform the government that we will be taking legal action, we’re going to have our legal advisors to take a look at this and see whether this was legal or not, but also I could assure you that once we get into government we are going to go through this contract.  So I am alerting Mr. Brads and his partners to be careful how much money they want to give to the UDP because they are going to lose because this is not going to be left the way it has been set or structured by the UDP government.  We got a copy of the ownership of the company, the shares, and you see that Brads has forty percent or four thousand shares and then there’s a company by the name of Good Lee has six thousand shares.  So in effect, Good Lee owns sixty percent of the Belize Boledo.”


At the time, former Prime Minister Dean Barrow was tightlipped on the matter and mum was the word from cabinet.  Two and a half years later, the shoe is on the other foot and he is back to private practice as an attorney representing Brads Gaming Group Ltd., an iteration of Brads Gaming Company.  He also represents Countach Technologies Ltd.  In his capacity as legal counsel, I inquired about Good Lee’s connection, if any, with Countach, another shareholder in Brads.


Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow, Attorney-at-law

“I dont know of any connection between the two.  I dont know anything really about Good Lee and that is the trap that the prime minister, in my view, fell into.  Generally, what happened with the first ten-year license, who the players were, in terms of the investment vehicle, Brads Gaming Company, as it was then called, and Good Lee.  It seems to be clear that Good Lee was some investor in the company.  But that has nothing to do with the new license and the new company and so when, as you see in the Countach letter, we had to say to the prime minister, how can you in fact in the media interview you gave, Mr. Prime Minister, talk about all that, according to you, the licensee, the company that had the first license which ended on March 31st, 2020.  How can you now suggest or in fact declare that the new licensee should be adjudged guilty of what you say are the sins of commission and omission committed by the previous licensee?”


According to Prime Minister John Briceño, his administration is not being hasty.  In fact, government’s attorneys, he says, are being careful.


Prime Minister John Briceño

Prime Minister John Briceño

“Unlike the previous government, we are being meticulous in what we do.  We are not acting out of malice, we are not acting out of spite.  We are just looking at the interest of the Belizean people and we are seeing that there are areas where we believe that they have not complied.  But again, we need to wait and see what our legal team is going to advise us.”


Isani Cayetano

“In the letter from last week, earlier last week, a response, a rejoinder to the letter that was sent by the chairperson of the Lotteries Committee, in essence, all the points, the respective points that were raised in the letter of December 23rd, were batted down as either untrue in terms of perhaps some of the claims that were put forward as concerns or what-have-you.  Where are we with that, in terms of those particular line items that were of concern?”


Dean Barrow

“Well we haven’t had any response to our letter from CEO Garcia, as the chairperson of the Lotteries Committee.  But you’re absolutely right.  We believe that when you read their letter and when you read our response, you have to conclude that ninety percent of the allegations they make, ninety percent of the breaches that they accuse Brads of, ninety percent is without merit.  There are some minor instances in which indeed you can say that there was an omission on the part of Brads.”


But is the revocation of the Brads contract, even with PM Briceno’s prudence, simply a foregone conclusion?  Interestingly, in a recent conversation with the Minister of Health and Wellness, he echoes a position taken by the Belize Business Bureau, a private sector organization that is seemingly pro PUP.


Kevin Bernard

Kevin Bernard, Minister of Health & Wellness

“If we ever take over the boledo, do we put those funds to program NHI or do we look at a sin tax that will be geared towards N.H.I.?”


Isani Cayetano 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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