Last Friday we told you of a letter sent by the Government of Belize to Andre Vega and Attorney Sharon Pitts requesting a reimbursement of eight hundred thousand dollars total from the two individuals. It is the first step at an attempt to have some semblance of confidence restored in the Ministry of Natural Resources after it being revealed that these persons were paid handsomely in a land-flip scheme. But according to PUP’s Area Representative, Kareem Musa, there is more that needs to be done particularly with the public officers who knowingly processed the documents.
“I can see that the government has started the legal procedure so to speak before you commence legal action it is normally good practice to send out a letter requesting that payment be made so as to avoid legal action because as you know when matters go before the court there are other costs that can be incurred by taking the matter to court. So it’s a good first step now if you’re asking me whether Andre Vega or Sharon Pitts either or them are going to pay back their $400,000 I will tell you know I don’t believe that they will. I’ll tell you why. I believe that the real blame for this entire disaster that has taken over the Ministry of Natural resources falls at the footsteps of the Ministry because the Fraud took place from within the Ministry meaning that some public officer whether upon the instructions of the Minister or otherwise took it upon themselves to issue a second title over a property that was already owned. They were given notice of that and so this is not a situation where it was a mistake, this is outright fraud and so in my personal opinion that is where the government needs to direct its attention. It needs to put the focus on the Ministry and do an investigation there to see who is the individual who issued a second title over property that was already owned. I think that is the individual that should have to pay back the $400,000.”
Musa went on to speak of the root of the problem at the Ministry of Natural Resources and what has become the norm for years now.
“I personally don’t think that Andre Vega and Sharon Pitts should be let off the hook but at the same time that is not the end all of this procedure. We have to go to the root of this problem and the root of this problem is at the Ministry of Natural Resources. If Andre Vega and Sharon Pitts were to be honest with themselves they too would acknowledge that they should not benefit off the public purse like that and they should get back the $2,500 they paid for the land and the $6,000 they paid for the land and a fraud was committed. Whether or not they were involved is yet to be seen, they took part in the fraud but no doubt this is not a situation where it is a mistake it is a situation of fraud and therefore the culpable parties are right at the Ministry of Natural Resources. They are the ones who should pay back the $400,000.”
Pitts and Vega have been given thirty days within which to respond to the demands. In absence of a response the letter noted that the Government will assume that the contents of the letter have been received and ignored and, proceed to take any and all action necessary to ensure the full recovery of all moneys to which the Government of Belize is entitled, without further notice.