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Feb 27, 2008

Archie Lee continues to fight charges

Story PictureWhen we last left Archie Lee he had just had his entire liquor inventory confiscated and was threatened legal action from a number of quarters. Today, News Five’s Janelle Chanona stayed with the story.

Janelle Chanona
This morning Belize City businessman Archie Lee was formally charged with common assault and granted bail of three hundred dollars. Lee pled not guilty and the matter has been adjourned until April ninth.

The charge arises from a report made by special constable Andy Hamilton who claims the businessman grabbed him by the shirt during a raid at Lee’s Shopping City. Hamilton and the other constables confiscated approximately ten thousand dollars worth of liquor on the grounds that Lee does not hold a valid license.

Leila Peyrefitte, City Councillor
“Archie Lee is a renewal. It is not a new business so he knows of the laws. He knows the matter on hand and him sitting on the board; it is clearly that he…”

Janelle Chanona
“So it’s just about the money.”

Leila Peyrefitte
“Exactly. It is there, he knows it’s a renewal, so he knows that he had until the thirty-first of January to pay.”

Janelle Chanona
“So why somebody neva gawn deh with a receipt book saying you didn’t so you we bring the receipt book so you could pay us now. Why go there with constables ready for confiscation, police?”

Leila Peyrefitte
“We have tried that many times with Mr. Archie Lee, we have tried that many times. Mr. Archie Lee must understand that he is making it look political, it’s not political, it is not. We are just here, we are just here, trying to do the best from the Council’s point of view, that’s all.”

But Lee, who sits on the Belize District Liquor License Board, claims his agents have tried to pay for the license.

Archie Lee, Proprietor, Shopping City/Archie’s
“But they say they don’t find the file so the cashier refuse to take money from my daughter.”

Janelle Chanona
“You’ve tried this several times and they won’t accept your money, that’s your case.”

Archie Lee
“Not me, my daughter. She’s tried several times already. She tried several times to go to City Council and ask to pay. The cashier seh I don’t get no subject to fu put in the thing so we can’t collect.”

Janelle Chanona
“You are on the board, why didn’t you bring this up to the Mayor or somebody at City Council to stay, look, I’ve been trying to pay my license but they won’t accept my money.”

Archie Lee
“But she no go attend the meeting.”

Janelle Chanona
“You attend the meeting, why haven’t you brought that up at the meeting saying I’m trying to pay and they can’t find the file.”

Archie Lee
“But even on January, no time she show her face on the meeting, no time. Every time, only me, the chairman and maybe one or two member…”

Janelle Chanona
“There’s no representative from the city council?”

Archie Lee
“No representative from the City Council.”

Lee is referring to Mayor Zenaida Moya, who is an ex-officio member of the Liquor Licensing Board. Chairman of the board, Danny Madrid is backing Lee’s story, claiming Moya was absent at the January approval meetings. Today Madrid says the U.D.P. City Council is trying to use a system they inherited from the P.U.P.s but claims even though Lee hadn’t paid up, his license is still valid.

Adrian Madrid, Chairman, Liquor Licensing Board
“No where in the law says that if you don’t pay, you don’t have a license or you can’t get your license. The board is an official board and when the board states that this person has a license, this person has a license.”

Janelle Chanona
“Whether you pay or not?”

Adrian Madrid
“Whether you pay or not. And that’s the reason why we internally changed so that we could get our revenues because some people, in the old days, people would get their licenses and then come to pay next month and next week, the system was different.”

Janelle Chanona
“You are saying the City Council never knew—the new City Council—never knew that, that was the law? That you get approved means you have license and then it’s up to them to get the money?”

Adrian Madrid
“Well I don’t know if they know that, I am sure they should be aware of that. We changed it. We changed it and said let’s collect our revenue first and then give the license but at no time could we deny anybody a license because they didn’t pay. The certificate was not handed to you if you didn’t pay but you had a license to operate.”

Janelle Chanona
“But isn’t it a mandate to display the certificate for it to be a valid license?”

Adrian Madrid
“Yes.”

And because Lee has admitted to not paying until yesterday, Lee couldn’t display a valid certificate. But the board member and chairman say there’s a good reason for that too, and it’s not Lee’s fault. According to Madrid, tradition has been to only have the Mayor and the Chairman sign the certificate but technically, all the board members are bound to sign the accompanying documents, which Madrid says is a logistical nightmare.

Adrian Madrid
“Where we are right now is right back where we were in 1998 where we were inconveniencing the public and that’s exactly what’s happening right now. The certificates are at City hall, I don’t know where they are, waiting for the Mayor’s signature and I don’t know when they will get it.”

But today backdated licenses for Lee’s businesses were signed by Madrid with counter signatures expected to come from acting Mayor, Anthony Michael. However when we checked with Michael, he said he will sign licenses dated today, not those back-dated.

And while Lee’s license woes are almost over, his legal troubles are ongoing as today Special Constable Valerio Yama maintained that the businessman has persistently violated the opening hours for the sale of alcohol under his license. The maximum fine for selling liquor from an unauthorized premise is five hundred dollars.

Janelle Chanona
“Knowing that Mr. Lee is saying he had about ten thousand dollars worth in there, what would happen if for some reason he wins his case, would the City Council be liable to repay that alcohol?”

Valerio Yama, Special Constable Supervisor
”Not to repay but return back whatever was confiscated.”

Janelle Chanona
“Even though it won’t be good anymore.”

Valerio Yama
“I don’t know if it’s going to be good but…

Janelle Chanona
“Well like beer and thing once it get cold and eh get hot, eh no good…”

Valerio Yama
“I cannot say about that.”

Janelle Chanona
“So you’ll return the exact same?”

Valerio Yama
“Exactly, that is what I know I have to do, return whatever was confiscated.”

Archie Lee
“I believe all ah deh spoil. If they want to return to liquor to me, whatever, I know how much of them they take from the cooler, I want deh replace back, I don’t want back the same liquor because already spoil.”

During Tuesday’s raid, the special constables also tried to shut down Lee’s Shopping City, claiming he did not have a valid trade license. Today Valuation Officer Troy Smith admitted that was a mistake because Lee’s license was under review at the time.

Janelle Chanona
“Was it a situation where your officers went out to enforce something that perhaps your office should have told them look, that matter is under review, so don’t worry about this for now?”

Troy Smith, Valuation Manager, Belize City Council
“Well I guess they were trying to look out for me. I was in meeting so there was I guess, a miscommunication link. I knew they were trying to reach me, I guess my phone was off, I was in the meeting.”

Janelle Chanona
“But that does make Mr. Yama look a little embarrassed.”

Troy Smith
“Well I could see that to an extent but I guess that’s a matter of me being in a meeting, my phone was off,he were trying to reach me so that an oversight by us.” I think it’s a matter of the management should also send the information down to the enforcement officer.”

Janelle Chanona
“Cause that’s pretty serious.”

Troy Smith
“I know. And I believe the issue of the communication level we have addressed that and I think next time the phone should not be off because you never know when things very urgent happen.”

Lee had asked the City Council to review their assessment based on the fact that he had downsized his business. Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

In response to Madrid’s assertion that Lee was operating within the law even though he hadn’t paid his liquor license fees, this evening valuation officer Troy Smith told us that the City Council’s legal advisors are reviewing the liquor licensing act to determine exactly what the rules are.


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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