While on the surface the information requested by Senator Peyrefitte was provided, the PM also disclosed the monies paid to the former Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s law firm. Briceno says in his letter that GOB paid Barrow & Williams almost 5 million dollars and almost 1.3 million dollars was in legal fees. Briceno says quote “the difference it appears is primarily in connection with the former Prime Minister’s law firm securing payments by the UDP Government to his law firm’s clients for land acquisitions by the Government” Unquote. Prime Minister Briceno says in his letter that the UDP Government also paid 5.6 million in legal fees to Lois Young Barrow and Company. The PM says that Barrow & Co quote “seemed to be the largest beneficiary of the former UDP Prime Minister’s government’s largess to Barrow family members having received over 20 million from the Government of Belize, of which roughly 14 million dollars was for legal fees” Unquote.
PM Briceno continues to say that the Barrow family of law firms received over 30 million dollars in taxpayers’ monies, 20 million of which was legal fees. Those are serious allegations and some serious dollars and so today, we asked the former Prime Minister for a comment on what the PM said. Via WhatsApp, Dean Barrow told us quote “It is utterly and scandalously dishonest of the Prime Minister to count as legal fees payments made by GOB to Barrow & Williams for the account of the latter’s clients that won compensation for compulsory acquisitions or other actions against the Government. B&W was free to represent clients and sue GOB precisely because B&W had no retainer from GOB to prevent them from acting for claimants against GOB.” Unquote. He continues quote “I make clear again for the record that GOB, under the almost 13 years of my administration, did not pay Barrow & Williams any 1.3 million dollars as legal fees. That is a false claim being deployed as a red herring. Barrow and Williams was never given any contract or retainer, never had any standing arrangement to do legal work for GOB. On a few occasions, such as when there was that unanticipated need for local senior counsel urgently to seek a Court of Appeal stay of CJ Benjamin’s injunction against the ICJ referendum, Barrow & Williams was pressed into service. But that was very much an exception to my rule that B&W was not ordinarily to represent GOB” Unquote.
The former Prime Minister also said that quote “What a far cry from the situation now in which Ministers needed, immediately after taking office, to get exemptions from the GG in view of the plan to give their law firms voluminous and continuous GOB work and handsome taxpayer-funded fees! I naturally do not have the Government records of payments to what was then my brother’s law firm, or to Lois Young’s law firm. But neither Denys Barrow nor Lois Young held any public office. Both were superb private practitioners and both earned whatever they were paid, particularly regarding the BTL nationalization/Accommodation Agreement/UHS saga. In contrast to the situation now, neither had any potential conflict of interest in representing and being paid by GOB.” Unquote. His message to our newsroom ends by saying quote “I therefore reject the Prime Minister’s transparent effort to detract attention from the scandal now that has been exposed by Senator Michael Peyrefitte.” End of quote.