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Belize City, Belize Central America

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Agriculture & Farming

Jack Charles Gets Second Chance with Guyanese Rice

The 75 tons of Guyanese rice that Extra House Importer Jack Charles brought into the country late last year is still being housed in three containers inside the Port of Big Creek in Independence. After Justice Sonya Young, rejected Charles’ application for judicial review, rumors of the Customs Department wanting to destroy the rice, prompted Attorneys Leeroy Banner and Michel Chebat to apply and successfully get an injunction. Today the parties were back in court and an agreement was struck. Jack Charles now has 14 days to re-export the rice from Belize. Attorney Michel Chebat told us more.

MICHEL CHEBAT

“We had gotten notice that they had gone to the Magistrate’s Court and they had gotten an order, an ex parte order to forfeit the containers of rice and we were fearful because BAHA had not given the phytosanitary permit required to import the rice, then Customs would have no other alternative but to destroy the rice. So based on that we went to the Chief Justice and asked for help in stopping this until we could have a hearing. So he granted us the ex parte injunction and he had set today as the return date where all the parties involved would come before him and he would rehear the application for the injunction. On Friday we received a letter from the attorney general which was in response to a letter I had sent and in which they were giving us the option to re export the rice. On Monday morning we responded saying that we wanted the option but we needed more than the seven days that they were initially giving to us. So that was the position that we went to court with today. When we got there we were able to negotiate for an extended period of fourteen days, so it was agreed in court today that the rice would be re-exported within fourteen days of a letter we are expecting from the attorney general’s ministry tomorrow. So that is the position.”

LOCAL REPORTER

“What’s the plan of Mr.Charles. Is he planning on returning the rice to Guyana or is he trying to find another buyer?”

MICHEL CHEBAT

“No it is going to be exported out of the country. Where he is going to take it, I cannot say but what I can say is that it is not going to be brought into Belize.” 

LOCAL REPORTER

“Can you say whether or not  your client has seen this entire ordeal as a loss?”

MICHEL CHEBAT

“It certainly is a loss for him. The best case scenario would have been for him to be allowed to have brought in the rice, that did not happen so the cost of having brought it and the cost of taking it back out the country amounts to a loss  to him.”

LOCAL REPORTER

“Would you say that your client placed the horse before the cart in this whole situation?”

MICHEL CHEBAT

“I wouldn’t say that I think what happened to my client is that there had been a course of action that has been adopted with BAHA over the past and this was in keeping with the course of action that has been adopted by them.”

So Charles needs to either find a buyer or return it to Guyana. Whatever the case, he has two weeks to make it disappear from Belizean soil. If he does not hold up to the agreement, the Customs Department will move in to either destroy the rice if it is found to be not fit for human consumption, auction it off or donate it to a worthy cause.

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