The case of Progresso Heights Limited versus Pitts and Elrington Law Firm was heard at the Caribbean Court of Justice this morning where the ruling was in favor of the appellants Progresso Heights Limited. The case which began seven years ago surrounds a disagreement between Elrington and Progresso Heights Limited involving a real estate company. Progresso Heights Ltd is a Belizean company in which Lawrence Schneider, his son Adam Schneider and Elrington are the shareholders. In June 2010, Elrington filed a claim in the Supreme Court seeking an investigation of the company on the grounds that the other directors were dishonest and acting illegally. In October that same year, Progresso filed a claim against Elrington and his firm, seeking recovery of land transfer documents sent to Elrington’s firm between September 2009 and June 2010. Those stem from the sale of properties of 2,000 acres of land the company acquired at Progresso Village in the Corozal District. Accordingly, the agreement was that the Schneiders provide the funds required to develop the infrastructure, marketing, and sale of parcels of the land while Elrington agreed to provide legal services to the company without charge. It was shown that the relevant documents had been taken to the Land Registry, and the necessary duties and fees paid, so that title certificates had been duly issued in the names of purchasers of 8 of 16 parcels of land. The company made payments into Elrington’s Florida account, but the certificates had not been delivered to Progresso. Back in July of this year, the CCJ ordered Elrington to return all the conveyance documents Progresso Heights Ltd sent from Florida valued close to a million dollars within thirty days. That did not happen because, just before the time was up, Elrington told the court he did not have those documents. So, Progresso Heights Limited made an application that the court declares the documents lost and this morning, the court ruled in their favor. Progresso Heights Limited’s Attorney Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay explained what happened.
Eamon Courtney, Attorney
“My clients came to court today asking the court to order that the certificates have been lost, ask the registrar to issue new certificates and to deliver them to my client. We had thought that that was a logical and simple application. Low and behold last week Friday had his attorney, he goes through the trouble of hiring an attorney now after he represented himself and lost, he goes to the trouble of finding a good attorney to come to court and apply to the court to oppose, listen to oppose what we had sought from the court. Mr.Elrington who has lost people’s property, who cannot account for people’s property, who has taken people’s money and has not returned it to them when the people come to court at the CCJ level after he has last asked the registrar to give the titles back to the people who are entitled to it he wanted to come here and oppose it. Fortunately the judges saw through it, the judges understood what was at play and the judges made it very clear that they are declaring the titles lost, they insisted that the registrar be here today and was questioned by the judges and she gave the court her assurance that once the order is made she will publish the notice of lost certificates for three weeks and if nobody comes forward she will issue the certificates. But then the thing took another strange turn, Mr.Elrington wanted his attorney to get the certificates that do not belong to him, that does not belong to his client, that does not belong to any of his clients; why would they want those certificates? It’s very simple. He wants to control this process in order to pressurize and blackmail my client into making a settlement with him. The court would have none of it and the court authorized our law firm to go and get the duplicate titles and to deliver them to the people who rightfully deserve them. Finally the question of cost. They were asking the court that my client should not be reimbursed its cost for seven years of litigation and again following normally regular process and procedure the court ordered Mr.Elrington to pay all the cost incurred. The point is simple this and Belizeans should not lose sight of it this is an investment that was done by Americans in partnership with Mr.Elrington he fell out with them and he has used his governmental power to abuse his office and not have these titles issued and it is only with the order of the CCJ that they are now being issued.”
Elrington maintained that he never entered into a contract with the plaintiff and thus was not content with today’s outcome.
Wilfred Elrington, Attorney
“The court has certain limitations. I maintain that I was never entered into the contract upon which the case was based, never. I also maintain that no such evidence was before the court, I maintain that the court found differently but I think that an examination of the record will show that in fact no contract was entered into between me and the other side and we have evidence in court that can establish that too but the legal system is not perfect and to the extent that it is not perfect and it is man controlled one has to go along with the decision that is taken. Am I happy with it? No, but life is real.
Elrington was also ordered to pay court costs. The CCJ also encouraged both parties to get a mediator to resolve other issues between them.