And while the main Opposition Party was holding their press briefing at their headquarters, on the other side of the City, the Prime Minister, Dean Barrow was at a special event at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. The media capitalized on his presence and asked him about the allegations put forth by the People’s United Party regarding the Fortis Agreement. According to the Prime Minister, there has been transparency every step of the way.
“You know there is a reason why they refer to an election period as silly season. This is when all the craziness comes out but I would hope that the media won’t encourage this kind of foolishness. You showed me earlier a document or portions of documents to which the People’s United Party referred in that press conference. Every single document related to the settlement with Fortis was disclosed at the time of the settlement, was attached to the Bill that we took to the House to legislate the settlement so that there is nothing new that these people are pointing to and what they describe as concessions or facilitation, each particular item, was thoroughly discussed in the debate that took place at the time we passed the law and I, with the truth debunked all the folly, all the foolishness, all the falsity of their claims.”
Prime Minister went on to explain that Fortis got no special accommodations or agreements in their recent transactions with the Government of Belize and that the agreements, as is, would apply across the board.
“Every so called concession that they can point to is not anything that has been specially done for Fortis. It is what is the norm. It is what is par for the course in similar circumstances and let me see if I can deal with a number of them one by one. Fortis will pay no withholding tax on their dividends. That is not special. No shareholder, nobody who owns shares in BEL pays withholding tax on dividends because that was a position that was in fact offered to all shareholders by the PUP and there is a letter that I produced in the House from the Commissioner of Income Tax declaring that that is the law. That is how it has been for ten years or so now. That is number one. With respect to the payment that we gave to Fortis by way of the settlement, the seventy million dollars or whatever it is, this is a form of compensation. It is akin to a judgment debt. There is no tax liability on judgment debts. There is no tax liability on the payment of compensation. We passed a law that governs compensation and if you look at that, it would be made clear. There is no tax liability on compensation. So again there is nothing special that we have done for Fortis. That is par for the course whenever there is a settlement. On the transfer of shares, there is no tax on the transfer of shares when government is the transferer. So nothing that they can point to is other than what obtains for anybody in similar circumstances and let me just repeat, how can you call this secret when it was all disclosed and put on the table both at the time of the press conference and at the time of the thorough-going debate that was held in the National Assembly both in the House and in the Senate when the law was passed. Please, don’t allow them in their last gasp; in their last ditch efforts to try and gain the traction that has eluded them, certainly, since the start of this year, for these entire almost eleven months that have transpired. Don’t allow them to use what is stale, what is not new and what has no validity. Don’t allow them to try to employ that to generate momentum for themselves that simply is not there.”