While the employees at the Belize Telemedia Limited will be taxed on their benefits, the matter surrounding the former Chairman Nestor Net Vasquez remains up in the air. This is because Vasquez is now refuting some of the charges on the credit card statements dated as far back as 2016. Prime Minister Briceno spoke on this issue when we met up with him earlier today.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “About the issue of Net Vasquez as I’m told that his lawyer now is asking for some receipts on all of these payments and it’s a lot of charges so obviously it seems that they’re just trying to frustrate the system or to extend the time from when they will have to pay but we do understand I would like everyone to know that whatever is owed to BTL will be paid. It has to be paid back and so it’s not that we’re not trying to do anything, we do not want to repeat the mistakes of the previous government when they would maliciously wanted to arrest ministers when it was wrongly done, there was no case, there was no evidence; we want to make sure that when we do that that we have all the evidence in place and that it is evidence that can withstand the scrutiny of the courts. So we are going to be taking actions, we’re doing a number of investigations we’ve appointed the commission to look at the disposal of assets even the former Prime Minister has been subpoenaed to go to that commission I think that shows you the extent of the seriousness of us a government on doing an investigation.”
As for any possible criminal charges against Net Vasquez, the Prime Minister told our newsroom that a request for a criminal investigation would have to be decided by the BTL Board. Love News asked Prime Minister to respond to the court of public opinion on social media where the Net Vasquez matter was compared to a mother of ten who was sent to prison for a stolen tablet. Prime Minister Briceno noted that there was another angle to look at, namely, the lack of financial oversight at BTL.
Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “I think that would be a matter for the board of directors or the management of BTL to deal with not for myself at the political level. What I can tell you at the very least we are ensuring that the monies are recovered and Net Vasquez has given indication that he will pay back what he used in the company’s credit card – which he should not have used – that he’s going to refund the money back. Now as to if there’s going to be criminal charges or not that’s another matter for the people at BTL to decide and not for us at the political directorate. I could understand the frustration of people but at the same time we can’t govern by social media. We’re elected to govern and in social media you listen, you see what’s going on but you can’t govern by that we have to govern the many laws of Belize and this case as I said we do not run BTL the BTL has it’s own board of directors and that is a decision then for BTL to make whether they want to take criminal charges against Mr.Vasquez or not. I think the point is that I think that Mr.Vasquez whilst he was using the company card the records were there every month so the account was there. From what I’m told the people at the BTL knew that account they used to take out what was his personal charges but they were no collecting it now that’s another matter, that’s another internal matter within BTL. It’s not as if he was taking money without people knowing they you’re taking the people at BTL knew that he was using the credit card, the people at BTL knew had an account where they’re keeping track of what he was using. Now the the people at BTL did not collect until when it became a huge scandal that they had to take action so that’s slightly different. I’m not in any way suggesting that legal action shouldn’t take out against Mr.Vasquez but I think that’s something for people at BTL to take care of or to handle.”
Vasquez was Chairman at BTL up to September 2020 when he was forced to resign amid the scandal. He subsequently resigned from several other seats he held including Chairman of the Social Security Board Investment Committee, as well from his membership on the Integrity Commission of Belize and as a board member of the Central Bank of Belize.