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BISL’s Multi-million dollar settlement taken the House

The Belize International Services Limited (Settlement) Bill was today approved by parliament. The Bill seeks to facilitate the implementation of the terms of a deed of settlement between the Government of Belize and BISL arising from the debt owed by the Government in satisfaction of BISL claims and ligitation cost. As we reported earlier this week, the Briceno Administration was able to reach a discounted settlement for the financial damages payable to BISL. This is a result of the unlawful nationalisation in 2013, by the then UDP Administration, of the ships and companies registries, and the subsequent judgment by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in July 2020 against the government. Following a comprehensive Cabinet review of the matter and Cabinet’s decision to resolve this outstanding public debt and uphold the rule of law, the Prime Minister John Briceño signed a Settlement Agreement with BISL, which caps damages at the equivalent of US$38.25 million. Previously, BISL had sought compensation in excess of US$70 million. This was pointed out by Prime Minister John Briceno when he introduced the bill. 

John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “For sure the settlement of $38.25 million is a huge amount of money for Belize. We, therefore, advocate this settlement with great reluctance. We would prefer to pay nothing or we just wish that this debt would just disappear but, to do otherwise than settle on the terms we agreed on today would be to risk burdening the Belizean people, the Belizean tax payer with potential additional damages of tens of millions of dollars more. Simply put, Government pays this now so that it can avoid paying a whole lot more at some time in the future. The worst case litigation scenario for Government actually contemplates damages at some USD $91 million. Which is USD $53 million more than the discounted settlement. Regrettably and recklessly, when the UDP took over the registries and Government proceeded to collect all the revenue from these registries, over USD $95 million or more than $190 million you know, during their seven years, $190 million BZD. Again, as I have said to the media, the UDP Government did not set aside any of the proceeds. Not a single dollar for possible compensation even though they must have understood that damages could be awarded to BISL.”

Moses “Shyne” Barrow, Leader of the Opposition: “The CCJ has made a determination, that determination should be respected and we should pay. That is point blank but again, only if you di sing and rap for your supper will you come in here and put on tha Grammy Award, Emmy Award, Oscar, every award you win for that performance that you did just now, that the Belizean people should feel sorry. Prime Minister Barrow and the UDP did the right thing. It was Prime Minister Musa who, behind the back of his Cabinet, behind the back of the Belizean people, made a secret agreement with the owners of BISL which led to the litigation.” 

Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education, Culture, E-Governance, Science & Technology: “What absolute nonsense coming out of the mouth of the Leader of the Opposition. He clearly has no understanding of the matter, no understanding of the judgement. What led to litigation, as the Prime Minister said in one word, is “gangsterism” that’s what led to litigation sir. So Mr. Speaker, you know after all the talking, after all the back and forth, after all the smoke and mirrors this settlement requires each of us really to ask ourselves one fundamental question: Are we as a nation committed to the rule of law? Are we a nation of laws or are we a rogue nation? That’s the fundamental question. Are we a rogue country that thumbs its nose at the highest court in our jurisdiction, the Caribbean Court of Justice? That really, Mr. Speaker is the only question before us today. If you support this bill, you support the rule of law. If you don’t then you are saying, clearly, that you are fine with Belize ignoring court decisions.”