The trial against attorney Sharon Pitts continued today before Supreme Court Justice Lisa Shoman. The Government filed a lawsuit against Pitts in its quest to recover four hundred thousand dollars that Pitts received under the Barrow Administration as land compensation. The 1.5 acres of land in question is situated on Mile 5 of the Philip Goldson Highway near Haulover Bridge in Belize City. Pitts paid $10, 569 for the land which already had an owner in the person of one Miguel Valencia. Pitts relinquished the title of the land after entering into a compensation agreement with the government, approved by the then Lands Minister Gaspar Vega who resigned after a similar scandal broke about his son, Andre in 2016. Yesterday the state called its only witness, Senior Lands Officer Jerjett Gutierrez who appeared in place of former lands commissioner Wilbert Vallejos. Gutierrez, in cross-examination, mentioned that a letter informing Pitts that the land was not available to be surveyed because it already had an owner was sent. Pitts denies receiving such a letter. During her cross-examination, Pitts got a bit emotional when it was put to her that she knew that the land was unavailable before she proceeded with the purchase. Pitts’ position is that the survey plans did not reveal that the land had an owner and she received assurances from Vallejos that the land was available. Pitts says she learned about the duplication from government officials and subsequently entered into an agreement with the government. She denies being unjustly enriched with $400,000 of the people’s money. She is being represented by Senior Counsel Hubert Elrington who gave us an interview.
SC Hubert Elrington, Attorney for Sharon Pitts: “He says that there were there was foreknowledge but the surveyor as a matter of fact the trial judge said to the surveyor “would you say that you had abdicated your responsibility in that you had not found out the truth so you could advise your client what truth was?” And he said “no I had not abdicated my responsibility. I had been told by the landowner that they would go and make sure themselves they were not even going to depend on me to go and make sure they themselves were going to go and make sure and they came back and said the land is available see it here Ms.Pitts we have this land we can give it to you.” that’s the case. So there was not even the slightest suggestion in the evidence that Ms.Pitts behaved improperly even in the slightest. She behaved with rectitude and honesty from the very beginning to the very end with rectitude and honesty and you know you should not especially the UDP for all that the Pitts have done for them they should not be so quick to try and destroy or damage her reputation but that’s their nature. This thing was brought at the time that the UDP was in government and they brought it against Ms.Pitts but they should have known that Ms. Pitts is not that type of person.”
Reported: So was this compensation thing a scam ?
SC Hubert Elrington, Attorney for Sharon Pitts: “They should have brought the evidence. Where is the evidence? I was here to see the evidence. I know evidence when I see it. No there was no evidence here today so I feel very confident that this was only throwing dirt at Ms. Pitts.”
Elrington called two witnesses today including the licensed surveyor for the particular piece of land, Lennard Ysaguirre. It was put to Ysaguirre that he abdicated his responsibilities to make checks that the land was not available rather than only listen to the former Lands Commissioner Wilbert Vallejos. Elrington says that Ysaguirre did what he was required to do.
SC Hubert Elrington, Attorney for Sharon Pitts: “He said to the commissioner and he said to the minister “look because I am an experienced surveyor and because I have been around for a long time my memory tells me that there was a survey in this area long long ago involving a man Carlton Russel. All I can remember is that the survey was in the course of being carried out. I don’t know if the survey had ended and I don’t know if a fiat had been issued but let me go and check.” and they said “no this is government land and on a matter like this we have to do the check ourselves we are not going to rely on anybody to check for us we are going to check ourselves.” So he said fine it’s your land you have the right, you are the chief surveyor of the country you can check. Shortly after I think within six days they came back and they said they owned the land then they turn around and said that Ms. Pitts was conniving. How do you get connivance out of that? There was no duty on the surveyor. The surveyor’s duty was a declare what he knew and he made full disclosure, absolute and full disclosure in the presence of many witnesses. If he had not made full disclosure to the commissioner of lands and if the commissioner of lands had not taken it upon himself allow along with the minister’s presence to say leave it to us we are going to do it then you can say maybe somebody else was responsible but the man made full disclosure. I am required to make full disclosure in order not to be dishonest when I am doing that is the extent as a surveyor make full disclosure of what you know. You are not required to go any further. The law does not require you to be a perfect man you know the law requires you to be an honest one and that is what that is what Mr Leonard Ysaguirre showed to this court today that he was an honest man.”
Both parties will now submit written statements. The ruling will then be handed down at a later date.