On August 18, U.S. District Judge, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly agreed to have Midway Investments of Turks and Caicos take over the ownership of the twenty seven point four million US dollar arbitration award owing to the BCB Holdings and the Belize Bank Limited by the Government of Belize. This means that Midway Investments can enforce the judgement since they would not be subjected to the jurisdiction of Belize’s courts and therefore any attempt at an injunction or prevention would not apply to them. Several months ago, the Belize Supreme Court had prohibited BCB Holdings from enforcing the award via a temporary injunction while laws were passed to criminalize efforts made to enforce foreign judgements against Belize. The injunction was lifted eventually but the law remained. Today, Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte spoke on what government’s options are.
Michael Peyrefitte – Attorney General
“What BCB did was to take the matter to the US Courts and we felt that it was insulting that our highest court could rule on a local matter and then you go forum shopping. The legislation was passed to say if you do anything like try to attach any of the Government’s assets after the highest court in the land has ruled that your actions are illegal; then you should be in contempt of that court. What the Ashcroft Alliance has done, they assigned their rights in BCB to a Midway which is a British Virgin Islands outfit type of thing, you know a similar Ashcroft type of company. We objected to that assignment saying that essentially the issues wouldn’t change, essentially the merits of that case have been decided upon so really what are you trying to do, you are trying to hide before a name. In their ultimate wisdom the courts in the US granted them that application and they won, so Midway was able to replace BCB. Where does that leave us? We have no jurisdiction over Midway and we believe that it is not a sound decision but I have a conference call with our US attorneys on Tuesday and then we will strategize as to where do we go from there, do we want to appeal that in a US Court, do we want to do anything more to bring out the fact that that assignment and the upholding of that assignment were ridiculous.”
The media also questioned whether the new court ruling places the Government’s assets outside of Belize in a vulnerable position.
Michael Peyrefitte – Attorney General
“The assets of the Government of Belize, outside of Belize are absolutely secure because we have none. So they have no assets to attach outside of Belize. There is the concern that they will want to say that the Government and the Central Bank are one entity and the Central Bank does have assets outside and they will no doubt try to attach those assets. However our lawyers abroad are telling us and we firmly believe as well that absolutely there is no court in the right mind that will say that Central Bank’s assets and Government’s assets are the same thing because they are not. That is the only way that we could be exposed but I don’t think they will meet with much success with that one or at least I hope not.”
The Government of Belize had opposed the motion for the transfer earlier this month since the law would not apply to Midway Investments and they, in turn, can seek to have the award paid out albeit via US assets. In the August 18th decision, the judge noted in its memorandum opinion that [Belize] apparently does not intend on paying the judgment entered by this court and has taken various actions in Belize aimed at preventing petitioners from enforcing the judgment. This award stems from the favourable tax treatment that was given to the two Ashcroft companies under the Said Musa administration.