Today, the two day hearing in the cases between government and the Aschroft Alliances, Caribbean Investment Holdings and Courtenay Coye LLP concluded. Both cases were heard jointly by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin and submissions were made by all parties yesterday and today in relation to the criminal penalties in the Central Bank Immunities Act of 2017. Attorneys for the Ashcroft Alliance are seeking for the act to be struck down. This was passed in January this year to protect the Central Bank’s Foreign Reserves, to prevent the Ashcroft alliances from claiming these as part of an arbitral award that was granted to the claimants in the sum of fifty million US dollars. Senior Counsel Eamon Courtney along with Attorneys Iliana Swift and Angelin Welch represented Caribbean Investment Holdings while Senior Counsel Magali Marin Young and Iliana Swift represented Courtenay Coye LLP. Solicitor General Nigel Hawke represented the Government.
“The most I will say we advance our arguments as to the constitutionality of the legislation. Some of the things that they have argued in relation to _________ attack and whether it was for the improper purpose we’ve basically submitted to the court that the final court has pronounced on those matters already and the thrust of our submission is that they are fundamentally seeking to enforce a judgment that our final court has pronounced, that its not enforceable because it is against our legal order the constitution of Belize.”
“The law specifically says that if you act as an advisory to a person who attempts to do the things that they find in the legislation you commit a criminal offence. The government has rather strangely written a letter saying that they don’t interpret advisor to mean a law firm or attorneys, well a lot of my work and a lot of the work of attorneys is in advising people so that is a bizarre position to take for the government but that is their position. We have no confidence in that Mr.Hawke the Solicitor General Says that he is not aware of any attempts to go after any attorney that may be the position today it may not be the position tomorrow and so we need the court’s decision of what the legislation says. You heard the Chief Justice at the very end seek an undertaking from Mr.Hawke that the government will not act to prosecute or take any steps pursuant to the legislation until he gives his judgment. So that undertaking that was given to the court gives us some comfort in the meantime.”
Senior Counsel Courtenay also explained their submissions as it pertains to the arbitral award to Caribbean Investment Holdings.
“That amounts to arbitrary deprivation of your property you might as well tear up the judgment because you can’t enforce it so we say that there is a violation of the right to property by and arbitrary deprivation when the legislation is implemented. We say secondly that a party who is in Belize has a right to due process of law to pursue his issues in the courts of this jurisdiction and the courts of other jurisdictions. We relied on a case from Trinidad and Tobago where the Privy council said that you are entitled in Trinidad and Tobago to be protected by the constitution even in respect of something you are pursuing in Washington D.C. This is very similar to what is happening here, that is to say that a Belize company has a judgment and an arbitral award in its favor, it went to the United States seeking to enforce it and whilst it is in the process of enforcing it the government passes legislation which criminalizes further attempts to enforce it. We say that that is a denial of the right to the protection of the law and the right to due process.”
“Are your clients giving an indication that they will not go after the Central Bank’s assets in trying to seek enforcement of this award?”
“I think you are being humorous so I am going to laugh and that is my answer to that.”
The case was closed today and Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin has reserved his decision for a later date.