Today, the Court of Appeal heard arguments in the Belize International Services Limited’s case (BISL) over the nationalization of IMMARBE and the IBC REGISTRY in June 2013, by the Government of Belize. The Government claimed that Belize International Services Limited took control of the registries as a result of a secret agreement by the then PUP administration. Prior to reaching the appeal’s court, the case was heard at the Supreme Court where the claim was thrown out and the contract declared unlawful. In speaking with the media following the Court of Appeal’s hearing, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay said that their argument is that the provisions of the contract are in compliance with the law.
Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay: Basic point is this that the contract provided that the monies were for collected by the registries, were paid into two escrow accounts and then certain deductions were made from them. The balance was split between the company and the Government; the money was paid over to Government. The argument of the Government and which Madam Arana accepted was that in fact the money should have been paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund and not to the registries. We have said to the court that for the reasons which we don’t need to go into that what was done under the contract was lawful but we put an alternative which is if that arrangement of the money is going first to these Escrow accounts and then to the Consolidated Revenue Fund that is un lawful. Those terms could have been severed, the Government could have come to the company and said listen we don’t think this complies with the law, and let’s amend the contract so bring it into compliance with the law. Instead the Government just use its force and might to take away the rest of the contract so our argument to the court was that the contract can be severed if the Court accepts the position of the Government and then we will be able to accept damages for the client.
Solicitor General Nigel Hawke said that this type of agreement should have been put before parliament.
Solicitor General Nigel Hawke: Well our position fundamentally is that there has not been anything, they have accepted somewhat there has not been compliance with section 114 and section 42 of the Financial Order Reform Act because Constitution requires certain issues in relation to public monies being deposited in the Consolidated Revenue Fund, we think the agreement does not offend those provisions. Embodied in the agreement there are some aspects of the collection of taxes and we are saying once it has to do with the collection of taxes it should have to do with some parliamentary sanctions.
The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment for a later date.