In early April came the revelation of a set of documents leaked from the Mossack Fonseca firm called the Panama Papers. It is a very extensive collection of files that has had many public figures, investors and politicians facing criminal charges and other forms of repercussions after reports of untoward business deals. Belize became a part and parcel of these papers after it was reported by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that Lord Michael Ashcroft’s offshore company, Belize Corporate Services represented Mossack Fonseca in Belize and facilitated the process of providing shell corporations for its clients as far back as 2006. Lord Ashcroft had denied that report some days later. Recently, however, another scheme has come to the forefront involving Belize.
In an article published in the Miami Herald, dated Friday, June 10, 2016, there was a company set up with the name, Dreamscapes of Belize. It is an online site that marketed available plots in a planned residential community in Central America’s only English speaking country. The article reads, in part, quote, “Mixed up in the dispute are a pair of offshore companies set up by Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the center of the Panama Papers scandal, and a Florida-based skin-care company that is now defunct. It’s not exactly clear what role the offshores played in the drama, although one of them — registered in the Bahamas — was a holding company for the Belize properties, according to a Mossack Fonseca file.” End of quote. Court litigations began in 2015 when buyers realized they were duped. Reference a lawsuit filed in 2015 in West Palm Beach, Florida, buyers had responded to the Dreamscapes website and were induced to pay from $20,000 to $30,000 for vacant lots in a 563-acre expanse in the Stann Creek district of Belize.
The promotional videos on the website had promised an exotic hideaway, amid enchanting waterfalls and serene seaside vistas with model homes. According to the article, nearly a decade after American and Canadians began buying into Dreamscapes of Belize, they found there was no electricity, no marina and no 18-hole golf course as was presented as part of the package and also, no homes. The Miami Herald stated, quote, “The Dreamscapes tale emerged from a review of Caribbean connections in the Panama Papers, a massive cache of documents leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, and shared with the McClatchy Washington Bureau, the Miami Herald and others. The cast of characters includes a disbarred lawyer whose penny stock offering ran afoul of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, another disbarred lawyer who went to prison for scheming with mobsters, and two Palm Beach County-based company directors — one past, one present — each of whom blames the other for the project’s troubles.
The lawsuit names director and founder Clifton Goodrich and Belizean Kenneth Dunn, among others. Dunn is a lawyer with a troubled past. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge in connection with a money-laundering scheme orchestrated by the Florida branch of the Bonanno crime family.” End of quote. There were dozens of investors from both the US and Canada who were jilted out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. One buyer, 34-year-old, Thad Akins of Oregon State, USA, stated, quote, “We were buying it for our parents to have a vacation place to go to, to retire and have family gatherings. We have people who are a part of this lawsuit for whom this was their retirement, their dream; some of them have died since this started. Some have medical bills and will never experience Belize.” End of quote. Akins says he invested one hundred and fifteen thousand US dollars for his purchase of lots and a model home and so far, the group behind Dreamscapes of Belize had collected about ten million US dollars under this scheme. Akins says there is a sign on the property: “Dreamscapes coming soon” – a sign that was erected back in 2008.