Belize Appeals for Reconsideration at the DC Circuit

By
Updated: May 2, 2017

In late March, the Belize Court of Appeals ruled in favour of the Government of Belize when it rejected the Belize Bank’s bid to have a 37-million dollar arbitration award enforced.  While the Government was successful on this end, they continue to face challenges on the issue since they cannot seem to get the US DC Court to do the same.  As a matter of fact, just last Friday, according to a 360 Law publication, the Government of Belize has asked the DC Circuit to reconsider their confirmation of the district court order which confirmed the London-based arbitral award against the Belize government.  Belize’s argument in rejecting the district court ruling was on the premise of the violation of US public policy as the bias of one of the arbitrators was questioned.  While the DC Circuit noted that there were no grounds proving that bias, the Belize Court of Appeals had noted that their decision to reject the award handed down by the London Arbitration panel was that it would cause harm to public policy considering the strange circumstances of the loan guarantee made.This 37-million dollar award stems from a 2004 agreement signed under the Said Musa administration where the then Government had guaranteed the loan for the construction of the then Universal Health Services (UHS) which is now the Belize Healthcare Partners.  In this 2004 agreement the UHS Company Limited owed the Belize Bank for the construction of the hospital and the Government of Belize was the guarantor of the loan.  But three years later, in 2007, the UHS began having difficulty meeting its debt obligations to the bank, owned by Lord Michael Ashcroft.  Subsequently, the guarantor, who was the Government of Belize was forced to step in and an agreement for thirty three million dollars was made with the Belize Bank.  When the government failed to come up with the payments, the bank commenced arbitration proceedings.  Those proceedings, however were called off in January 2008 when the Said Musa administration engaged in a settlement agreement with the facility.  General elections were held some months later and the new Government under Dean Barrow’s leadership filed a lawsuit in the Belize Supreme Court to nullify the original loan settlement, saying it was invalid.  That court application had the Belize Bank turn back to the London Court which has now led to years of arbitration proceedings.  In 2013 an award was granted to Belize Bank in the sum of thirty six point nine million Belize dollars plus legal costs and interest.  That award continues to be a point of contention for both parties.  Meanwhile, there has been no indication on whether the matter has been forwarded to the Caribbean Court of Justice by the Belize Bank representatives.