In June 2013, the Government of Belize announced the nationalization of IMMARBE and the IBC Registry. It was a decision by the Barrow administration that was not taken sitting down as the the Belize International Services Limited took the Government to court saying that the move had cost them millions of dollars in losses. Denys Barrow, the attorney for the Government of Belize gave Love News some background to the case which wrapped up in the Supreme Court today.
Denys Barrow: “The case concerned the government taking over of two registries, the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize and the International Business Companies Registry of Belize. The government took the view that the contract for BISL expired on the 13th of June 2013. They said that they had an extension of the contract to run from June 2013 to 2020, government says that the extension which was in fact signed by the previous government was an invalid and an unlawful contract. Interesting thing is that the extension was signed in 2005, an extension which would come into operation in 2013. So when 2013 came the present government said no. That contract was given out without tender as it turns out BISL is claiming that they have lost $45 million dollars US in profit that they would have made out of the contract so to give out a contract which has a value of $45 million US dollars without going to tender is a very significant departure from the requirement that contracts of a certain amount must go to tender. The government also says that the contract allowed BISL to collect money and to pay it into their own bank accounts and then they paid out to government what was agreed as being due to government. You might recall earlier cases which established that all monies which belong to the government of Belize must be paid into the consolidated revenue fund. That was not being done and that had not been done for over ten years, probably for about twenty years. So when it was sought to extend the contract which would provide for the same thing that was another basis for saying it’s an unlawful contract. None of that was argued in court yesterday and today, that went into written submissions which were filled in advance.”
Barrow went on to give an overview of what transpired in the courtroom over the last two days.
Denys Barrow: “What was argued or what was dealt with essentially over the past two days was the valuation evidence from both sides. BISL had a valuer an English valuer who said that the loss was $45 million USD, government of Belize had a valuer who said the loss was more in the region of $25 million dollars if I recall correctly so it’s a huge difference in value and the actual hearing therefore involved cross examination by me of the valuer and by Mr.Eamon Courtney of our valuer. “
As for the outcome of the case before the Belize Supreme Court, Barrow says he is not expecting a decision from the judge until about mid-2016 due to the work load of Justice Arana.
Denys Barrow: “The outcome is quite a bit off because written submissions, closing submissions are to be delivered by Friday of next week. Justice Arana is heavily burdened with work and earliest clear date that she could find to give us would have been March of next year to make oral submissions.”
Despite the long wait for a finality to this matter, Senior Counsel Denys Barrow says he is feeling confident about their arguments.
Denys Barrow: “We feel quite confident of our arguments. You would know that lawyers or the more prudent lawyers do not predict the outcome but we feel confident, we feel that it is a strong case that we put forward. I will wait to see Mr.Courtney’s case and then perhaps further assess or confirm my view.”
Attorney for BISL, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay refused to comment on the matter when we met him outside the courtroom this afternoon. The Belize International Services Limited is jointly owned by Morgan and Morgan Law Firm in Panama and Phil Osbourne and Phil Johnson, both associates of the Ashcroft Group of Companies.