Opposition Leader, John Briceno hosted a press conference this afternoon at the party’s headquarters on Queen Street in Belize City, highlighting several national issues. The first item on the agenda was the matter surrounding Senator Eamon Courtenay and what the UDP has termed as a conflict of interest in the arbitration awards for BCB Holdings Limited. On this issue, Briceno justified his support for Courtenay via a comparison with what Prime Minister Dean Barrow.
“The position of the People’s United Party in support of the protection of our reserves has not changed and it will not change. Yet we understand and appreciate that the strength of our democracy is based on the right of every Belizean to challenge the laws of this nation. Over the past few days the UDP has been a on a smear campaign against Senator Eamon Courtney. It is quite obvious that the UDP is afraid of senator Courtney and will do everything possible to get him removed from the senate select committee that is looking into the immigration scandal. As you reported in your news stories it was Senator Courtney who got the former director of immigration to confess to the mass illegal nationalities and registration and has revealed rampant UDP fraud. The UDP now want him out of the senate because he will soon start to question these very UDP ministers who have been named in this corruption scandal. I believe that we need to start by asking the Prime Minister about his conflict of interest when his law firm continues to do work for a company that is owned by Mr. Ashcroft. When his law firm, his partner who supposedly represented BTL in that secret agreement in Miami to come up with this secret accommodation agreement that they had in Miami where his partner represents or those work for Lord Ashcroft and represents BTL; what bigger conflict can you have there? That is where we need to start with. Eamon Courtney has demonstrated that he has and continues to always stand on the side of Belize. What is happening is that the UDP and the Prime Minister are afraid of having Eamon Courtney stay in the senate.”
Prime Minister Dean Barrow has noted that the reason for his refusal to pay this particular award is because it has to do with the accommodation agreement signed under the Musa administration which was deemed unlawful. We asked Briceno to comment on the Prime Minister’s rationale.
“I think this is the question that you need to ask the Prime Minister, if he doesn’t hold himself responsible for racking up hundreds of millions of dollars on the backs of the Belizean people. Remember when he said that he was not going to pay a penny of the accommodation agreement ? When both senator Hulse and Senator Steve Duncan they were challenging the accommodation agreement in court. The PUC was challenging the accommodation agreement in court and in 2009 it was mysteriously dropped. We need to ask the Prime Minister why this was dropped because he could have challenged it and in many instances there is the feeling that this could have been struck out and we would not have to pay the $200 plus million dollars. Secondly then the Prime Minister said that he will not going to pay and here he sits down by himself with his law partner along with Mr. Ashcroft in Miami by themselves and writes a blank cheque that ends up costing us $557 million dollars. Who is doing worse for this country? Is it senator Courtney or the Prime Minister ? Who has cost us tens of millions of dollars because of his arrogance, hubris and his incompetence the Prime Minister continues to rack up millions and millions of dollars not only in the interest but in legal fees and when you ask who are the lawyers that are benefitting from this who are the financial advisors that are benefitting from this ? That will tell you the true story and that will tell you who is the traitor to Belize right now.”
As for where we are exactly on this matter …. Aside from racking up legal fees to avoid paying fifty million dollars, Legal Advisor to the PUP, Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleckspoke on the recent legistlation and noted that there could be international investment ramifications due to this matter.
“In both instances what you’re dealing with is the extent to which persons to whom government are indebted can enforce collection of the monies owing from government and you’ve heard the term sovereign immunities and it has been tossed around and that is the source of the confusion because there are different types of sovereign immunities. There is immunities from jurisdiction which means one state can’t be sued in the courts of another state and there is also immunities from enforcements of judgments had from different jurisdictions and that is what the two recent pieces of legislation deal with. When you agree to submit a dispute to arbitration, to international arbitration you waive sovereign immunity to jurisdiction, it means that you can be sued, legal proceedings can be taken in foreign courts just as it has with regard to the arbitral award. When you look at the bond holder documentation the sovereign immunity referred to there is the immunity from jurisdiction; those are being waived. And it was waived in the case of the arbitral awards in relation to the Ashcroft group as well. Where you are with the latter case is asserting immunities from execution of the judgments those are different set of immunities and I think it’s the difference between those that have caused some confusion. Suffice it to say this, we are informed there are no commercial assets of the government in the US against which execution can be had at this point in time. So there is nothing that can be enforced against, that doesn’t mean that it will always be that way, the judgment sits there unsatisfied and one of these days there might be something there and that also limits our options as a country as to what we can and cannot do in that jurisdiction so that if there is a legitimate commercial activity which we would want to undertake for the benefit of Belizeans which would involve moving assets through the United States they are at risk and they remain at risk of being executed against. Now I don’t know what will happen in the future I don’t know if that will ever happen I don’t know how realistic that suggestion is. Right now we are being told there is nothing which means then that at least in the short term there will be no significant further expense under it save for the legal cost in answering whatever legal applications are made over there but it doesn’t mean that it will always remain that way and that is what you need to bear in mind.”
This award came about back in 2009 when the London Court of International Arbitration ruled in favor of the Caribbean Investment Holdings Limited, formerly BCB Holdings, against the Government of Belize.