“Utterly unjustified innuendos”, that is how Prime Minister Dean Barrow has described several allegations brought against him and his administration. These allegations are printed in a 50-page document prepared by the US Federal Trade Commission surrounding Sanctuary Bay Enterprise (SBE) and Atlantic International Bank Limited (AIBL). The allegations are astounding and while ordinarily, it would warrant a defamation lawsuit, that is not how this situation will be panning out. Prime Minister Barrow says he read the allegations and while his first reaction was to call a press conference, he chose another way to address the issue.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow: “Let me tell you what I did when I got this, I prepared a press release to send out, that would have been done in front of a press conference that I proposed to have to deal with what was said but I sent first for the Charge’ to complain formally to him and through him and via him to the State Department of what was said. The untruth of so much of what was contained in the document and the complete unfairness to the Government of Belize and to me personally in terms of the material. I also had our Ambassador in Washington complain directly to the State Department. I did not proceed with the press conference or the statement because of the response that I had from the Charge’. While he made it plain that he was not in charge of the FTC, the FTC was a kind of autonomous Federal Agency. He would certainly run my complaint up the chain to the State Department and he knew that we already had that meeting in which I had expressed the wish for a settlement. He understood that the talks that were scheduled did not take place through no fault of Belizeans and so it was I believe his position that it was unfortunate that the proceedings in the U.S. still continued by way of the filing of documents which resulted in the particular brief about which I was complaining so bitterly to him. Anyway, he said that he would run things up the chain and that while not even the State Department could not tell the FTC what to do he expected that we would see some movement. Within hours of my meeting with him the FTC called the lawyers for the liquidator to offer a settlement over the phone, it wasn’t put in writing, we got back in touch with the Embassy here to say that is not good enough and that next day in fact that telephonic settlement offer was put in writing and negotiations started in earnest but by then the damage of this document had of course already been done. I thought though I would still hold my powder because the whole situation is bigger than I am. I wanted what has now happened for a settlement to take place and I didn’t think that I should take on the FTC as long as there was a chance that we could get a decent settlement so I stayed my hand.”
According to the document Prime Minister Dean Barrow met with SBE representatives in August 20l4, after the development’s problems were widely known. SBE arranged a meeting with Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow regarding the role that the (SBE’s) Buy Belize advertising campaign played in Belize’s economic development.” The document went even further to state, quote, “There are other important connections between the Belizean government and SBE. Prime Minister also responded to these allegations.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow: “What was said by implication and innuendo was thoroughly prejudicial but in substance dealing firstly with myself, nothing factual was alleged that could cause me the slightest trouble. Most of what they had to say that I found in any event disturbing appeared under the caption “the Belizean Government supported the fraud”. Now again in terms of describing the Sanctuary Bay Development as a fraud, I have no quarrel with that but let me repeat that this was a real estate development scheme run by Americans who in fact were joint owners of the Sanctuary Bay properties in this country in which only Americans invested. The notion that somehow the Central Bank of Belize ought to have stopped the fraud or the Government of Belize ought to have stopped this fraud makes no sense to anybody who is familiar with our system, this is not an allegation of criminal conduct.”
The document continued that, quote, “in one draft marketing communication, SBE planned to tell U.S. consumers that the Prime Minister, Hon. Dean Barrow, owns a lot at Sanctuary Belize. Although Barrow’s name does not appear on lot lists, he may have rights through another person or entity, and his law partner, Rodwell Williams of Barrow & Williams, owns at least two lots.” End of quote. It is a damning report that lists the names of several Government Ministers including Erwin Contreras who allegedly was a prominent figure in the SBE development. According to the FTC’s investigation, is also an engineer who handled construction for SBE through Enforcement Action defendant Sittee River Wildlife Reserve. Prime Minister also responded to those allegations as it turns out there is an engineer by the name of Erwin Contreras; it turns out that it’s not the same Minister Contreras.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow: “Under this the Belizean Government supported the so-called fraud. They said Prime Minister Barrow met with Pukke. Pukke is apparently the Chief Architect of the Sanctuary Bay Development project. Prime Minister Barrow met with Pukke and his associates and many connections exist between Barrow’s Government and Sanctuary Bay. As relevant here Prime Minister Dean Barrow met with SBA representatives in August 2014 after the problems of the development were widely known but in August of 2014 none of you media people as far as I know made any report of any problems with Sanctuary Bay so if there were already problems from that date it is absolutely incorrect to say that they were widely known about here in Belize but what is even worse I have never in my life met with this Mr. Pukke, I met with nobody concerning Sanctuary Bay, notably AIBL’s CEO Pelayo provided SBE a quote it could use in a white paper esque being presented to Barrow about the significance of the development to Belize. There was no such white paper presented to me, there could not have been because there was nobody with whom I met that could have presented such a paper and if there had been such a presentation that assuredly would be on file. Usher and Pukke at this meeting should and they quote give him, Barrow a wish list of things that we need to be successful. ” Baker related to his co-conspirators and I quote again “Barrow owes a great deal of any positive sentiment that he has about Belize because of their marketing to us and he should be very willing to help Sanctuary Belize in any way possible, end of the quotation. Just the previous day Baker emailed Pukke and Baker made the same point “Pukke has an upcoming meeting with Barrow, he shall give Barrow a wishlist and Barrow is likely to help because he owes SB for its successful telemarketing campaigns in the United States and then they go on to other important connections but let us stop there. Apart from the fact that there was no such meeting, where is the wishlist? What is it that I am supposed to have been asked and do they say well there was a meeting and Barrow granted the wishlist. Absolutely not. It stops right there. But just the fact that they alleged that I had a meeting with these people whom I would have not owed for any personal favor but having raised the profile of Belize and they would submit a wishlist is enough of course to have people draw on kind people who are numberless all sorts of absolutely wrong and unjustified conclusions but look at it, what is being alleged? That I had a meeting that I didn’t have, that they would have presented me with a wishlist which they didn’t and which I could not respond to so no suggestion that Sanctuary Bay got any kind of favor out of me or this Government.”