SC Courtenay Seeks Court Action to Move Forward on Arbitration Against Belize

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Updated: February 27, 2017

An application to strike out the injunction filed by the Government of Belize against Belize Bank Limited and BCB Holdings Limited was heard today in the courtroom of Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin. The application will go to trial and seeks to lift the injunction that was granted by Justice Michelle Arana. The injunction halted the enforcement of the arbitration award by Belize Bank Limited and BCB Holdings. Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay is representing the companies.

EAMON COURTENAY

“Essentially what we have is an application to strike out the claim and to lift the injunction and I think a common grounds is that if we did that on an interim basis it would largely determine the claim itself so instead of doing it in two stages we decided to just agree that we will retreat this matter now on the 13th as the trial of the claim; it either succeeds or fails. It will allow them the same thing that they had with for years to try to enforce against any reserves or assets of the country that is available and I specifically used the words reserves because as you know the Foreign Sovereign Immunities act bars attachment or execution against reserves so we can put that to one side despite what the government is saying that the foreign reserves of Belize are exposed, they are not by law and therefore it would be anything else, ther are exceptions stated in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act which deal with commercial transactions by the government. The questions is whether or not any of those and if any of those then Belize Bank and Caribbean Investments will be entitled to proceed against those. One point I want to make, the judge in DC who granted the order, what is called a 1610 order made the point that if any of these parties wanted to execute any property of the government it is not as if it could happen in the night and you woke up the next day and something is frozen you would have to make a court application to each state and the defendant would be given an opportunity to defend and represent themselves. So it’s not something that will come as a surprise it will be something that everybody would know if at all such an application is made. The only issue that could arise which we intend to take up is whether the government believes that our participating in this is a violation of those provisions and therefore they will criminal prosecute us so that is something that I need to formally take up with Mr. Barrow to get his client’s view of the matter.”

Representing the Government of Belize is Senor Counsel Denys Barrow.

DENYS BARROW

“There was filed an application by Eamon Courtney on behalf of Belize Bank and BCB holdings to strike out the government’s claim by virtue of which claim the government got the interim injunction restraining the Ashcroft group from proceeding in the states with enforcement proceedings so there was this application to be heard today to strike out our claim and therefore strike out the injunction. As you would have gathered that has been pushed back, the government wants and I think needs as a matter of certainty I think that is the element it needs as an act of certainty for this injunction to continue. The Chief Justice has continued it until the adjourned date but the government is seeking when the matter comes back for hearing on the adjourned date to have the injunction granted as a permanent injunction and as you say it is an existential constraint. There may be other avenues open to the government to resist enforcement against national assets abroad but if the injunction is in place then that adds that element of certainty to it. They have gotten an order in the United States which allows them to pursue any assets which Belize has in the states, they have gotten that order already.”

The case goes to trial on March 13.