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May 27, 2010

Court of Appeal lifts injunction in Telemedia case

eamon courtenay

Two cases involving the nationalization of Telemedia were heard today in court. In the first, there was positive news for the Ashcroft Group when the Court of Appeal lifted an injunction previously granted to the government of Belize. Seven appellants successfully appealed the injunction granted by Justice Samuel Awich because it would bar them from seeking compensation for Telemedia’s shares through the international arbitration process. British Barrister Nigel Pleming, along with attorneys Eamon Courtenay and Attorney Ashanti Arthurs Martin represented seven of those individuals, including Dean Boyce, former Chairman of Telemedia’s Executive Committee, former Central Bank Governor Keith Arnold, attorney Philip Zuniga.  Today Justices Manuel Sosa, Dennis Morrison and Brian Alleyne delivered the ruling in their favour.  Courtenay says it is a significant ruling for them.

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for Appellants

“You will recall that when the government took over Telemedia, they took some shares; and Dunkeld is a company that says that some of those shares were being held by some of its companies. In other words, like if you were holding something from me, some of the companies were holding shares for Dunkeld. Under the Bilateral Investment Treaty between the United Kingdom and Belize, if what is called a subject of the United Kingdom or a subject of Belize believes that their property has been expropriated, then they are entitled under that treaty to go to arbitration. Dunkeld is a British subject and Dunkeld takes the view that its property was expropriated and so they have gone to arbitration. In response to that, the government hasn’t sought to go to arbitration and put forward its case, it has come to the Belize Court and say to the Belize Court, ‘I want you to restrain Dunkeld and these individuals from going to arbitration.’ Well, In relation to our clients the court has lifted the injunction, in relation to them. The injunction remains in relation to Dunkeld; but I suspect as I understand it, in many instances like this, because in out research we saw many instance like this, international arbitrators proceed with the arbitration. And then the question what happens with an award has to be dealt with at a later stage.”

“I think our clients are very happy because under the law that was passed, by the government, they were facing the possibility of contempt charges for which there was imprisonment of a minimum of five years. Now, fortunately, the Court of Appeal has lifted that injunction and that is behind them.”

“The law is still on the books, what the court has done is to lift the injunction off our clients; but the law is on the books and if there is an injunction against a person, depending on the facts and if there is a violation of it; there can be contempt proceedings and a person can face astronomical fines as well as imprisonment for a minimum of five years. So, it’s a piece of legislation that has very serious implications for the conduct of business in Belize; and for the conduct of litigation in Belize because it affects not only litigants but it also affects the attorneys who advise the litigants, they can also be challenged and brought to court for contempt”

Marion Ali

“What happens now?”

Eamon Courtenay

“Well, as I understand it, in so far as the case is concerned the case continues. We, I believe, will take some steps to have that case stayed because the government agreed that it would go to arbitration and we will be going to court to ask the court to allow the arbitration to continue.”

Attorney for the government was Lois Young.


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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