Stake Bank Enters Receivership: Feinstein Group’s Ambitious Cruise Port Project Stalls Amidst Legal Battles

Stake Bank Enters Receivership: Feinstein Group’s Ambitious Cruise Port Project Stalls Amidst Legal Battles

Five years after breaking ground for what was to be a state-of-the-art cruise docking port, Stake Bank went into receivership today via Atlantic Bank Limited.  The Feinstein Group of Companies has invested in excess of 100 million dollars, but was forced to pause further development after the Government of Belize entered into negotiations with Portico Enterprises (Port of Magical) to have them also construct a docking facility in the area of the Northern Lagoon.  This endeavor with Portico, by the then-2017 administration, is what the Feinstein Group says threw the proverbial wrench in their development.  For context on this dilemma, we have to go back to August 2017 when the Dean Barrow administration signed a 25-year Definitive Agreement with Stakebank, also known as Port Coral.  This development by Stakebank would see a 25-acre facility accommodating four of the largest cruise ships, and providing tours, beach access, and a local shopping experience for cruise visitors.  It was a great plan, and would have been a one-of-a-kind development, but the trouble came when the government made a similar agreement with David Gegg and Portico Enterprises.  That agreement with Portico was made through a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed in September, a few weeks after the agreement with Stakebank was made.  The MOU with Portico Enterprises (Port of Magical) saw the government officials signing with consideration to approve the construction of a cruise docking facility.  By this time, Stakebank was already in dialogue with the cruise ships, and had already accessed loans to begin the development.  In February 2019, ground was broken at Stakebank, despite the Portico situation brewing in the background.  Fast forward to October 2020, and the 2017 MOU with Portico was then made into a Definitive Agreement with some unprecedented concessions, ranging from tax breaks to exemptions.  This document did not come to light, however, until May last year, creating much controversy to the point where a Special Senate Inquiry was activated to investigate the genesis of the agreement, its players and its validity. The entire situation has slowed down the development at Stakebank as investors have grown concerned over the then, and the current government’s position on the development.  Meanwhile, the Feinstein Group of Companies has taken the matter to the Belize High Court in the form of a civil suit.  In August last year, businessman, Michael Feinstein filed a lawsuit against the Government of Belize for 178 million dollars which includes the loss of net revenues, and additional interests accrued on loans. It is the claim by the group that the Stakebank development was substantially delayed due to the government’s breach of the Definitive Agreement that was signed in August 2017.  One of those breaches has to do with the location of the port, as the Definitive Agreement with Portico stipulates that no competing port must be built within a 25-mile radius which would include Stakebank whose development had preceded Portico’s.  Love News understands that while Stakebank’s Port Coral is now in receivership, efforts are being made to see the project completed.  We have confirmed that Atlantic Bank Limited has appointed Marlowe Neal as the receiver who will oversee the completion, on behalf of the bank and the Feinstein Group of Companies.  When asked to comment on the receivership of Stakebank, Prime Minister John Briceno didn’t have much to say, but he did speak on the lawsuit filed.

Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “When it comes to the issue of the receivership that’s a matter for the bank and I’m sure they may have their reasons why is it that they believe that they have to put the Stake Bank project on receivership. But as we know that the main players in the Stake Bank project decided to sue the government. From what I’m told there’s really no case so I can’t understand why is it they would want to sue the government.”

Reporter: Will Belize ever see a birthing port ?

Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “I do believe that we will. As we said there are three areas there is Stake Bank, there’s Portico and also now there is Port of Belize and so all of that is still remaining on play and we will see which is the one that will be able to develop into a cruise that can meet not only the needs for today but also for ten, twenty, years from today.”

Reporter: This is the largest receivership I believe in Belize’s banking history. Do you think it will affect the banking sector ?

Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “No it will not. Central Bank has been very clear and also so has Atlantic Bank they have been clear from day one that they’re going to ensure that they protect every single cent of the depositors so no I do not expect it to be a problem.”

Prime Minister Briceno says he is scheduled to meet with Mike Feinstein next week.

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