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Jun 18, 2008

C.J. restrains Central Bank from forcing Belize Bank to pay up …

Story PictureAnd while protestors were chanting his name in the streets, attorneys representing Michael Ashcroft’s Belize Bank continued to do battle with the Government of Belize over the Venezuelan millions. When we left the courtroom of Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh at six on Tuesday evening, the case had climaxed with the questioning of Governor of the Central Bank Sydney Campbell by British barrister Nigel Pleming. Following his testimony, attorneys for both sides summed up their points and the proceedings ended at six-thirty. When the case resumed this morning the Chief Justice delivered his decision and upheld the ruling he made on Monday. That order restrains the Central Bank from enforcing its March fourteenth directives which had asked the Belize Bank to one, deposit the ten million U.S. in G.O.B.’s account and forward the banking details of the ten million in the Taiwan transaction. Following the decision this morning, the Central Bank’s attorney Lois Young maintained that the application and others like it are part of a deliberate strategy by Michael Ashcroft.

Lois Young, Attorney, Central Bank
“I don’t know if it’s a tactic of his but it’s certainly deflecting resources to things that it ought not to be deflected to. Government is just trying to deal with them and to act responsibly but he keeps on filing application after application and I guess the end result he’s hoping is that he will just … what, litigate you to death?”

Michael Young, Attorney, G.O.B.
“It’s a two part directive: one is for the ten million dollars, one is for the documentation. Both of those are stayed until the trial of the case which takes place in the middle of July, not too far from now, for the court to pronounce on what are important issues including matters of constitutional importance as well as the interpretation of the Banks and Institutions Act.”

Janelle Chanona
“I know you’re only holding brief today but how does the application against the constitutionality of the appeals board, how does that hold up in your eyes?”

Michael Young
“Well, I need of course to see full arguments in relation to it. Off the cuff, it’s not a position that I would say that I agree with but really I reserve my final position or my final view for when I can properly look at the claim that the Belize Bank presents because remember that they are entitled to their constitutional rights. They are entitled to question any act which they consider to be unfair in relation to them.”

Janelle Chanona
“How does this affect the business of the Central Bank as far as its reputation as a regulator?”

Michael Young
“Well, the Central Bank has to be guided by the advice of its attorneys and in my view the Central Bank, having—I would think—acted in accordance of that advice, I don’t see that you can take that as some kink on the regulatory authority of the Central Bank.”

Nigel Pleming, Attorney, Belize Bank
“It’s an order that we were expecting because all we were seeking was to preserve the status quo until the challenge was heard by the judge. The only surprise was Central Band didn’t give an assurance or an undertaking and it was unnecessary to seek an injunction. That was a little surprising. The judgment was carefully delivered with all the skill of the chief Justice and we’re very happy with it.”

Janelle Chanona
“Mister Pleming, the C.J. … or it came out in court that it was somewhat of a surprise that at least to the Central Bank that you would file notice of an appeal with the appeals board and then question its constitutionality.”

Nigel Pleming
“That’s easy to explain. The procedure under the act is it allows you a certain time to make an appeal and what we’ve done is we’ve lodged an appeal without prejudice. So you have to go through the procedure to put the papers before the appeal board but in the meantime, the constitution of the appeal board itself is being challenged. And again, that’s all we wanted to do; was to preserve the position until the constitutional challenge has been heard and then if it fails we go to the appeal board.”

Janelle Chanona
“And what’s your grounds though for questioning its constitutionality?”

Nigel Pleming
“The concern is that in the particular circumstances there is just a question mark over independence and impartiality and it’s a very detailed and complex argument but it relies on paragraphs inspections of the constitution. It’s not an unfamiliar challenge to a board when you have slightly unusual circumstances in which they were appointed, bearing in mind that there was no appeal board at all when the decisions were made by the Central Bank. This is a very intense political environment in which the piece of litigation is being conducted.”

Janelle Chanona
“But your clients are also involved in other lawsuits. Would that attitude then spread across the board to those other cases?”

Nigel Pleming
“I’m not able to talk about any other cases. I’m here to deal with one constitutional challenge. Tempting though, it is.”

The constitutional challenge against the Banks and Financial Institutional Appeal Board has been set for July sixteenth and seventeenth in the Supreme Court.


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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