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Will Belize Bank Limited seize GOB’s assets?

Yesterday we told you that U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta authorized the Belize Bank Limited to seize property owned by the government of Belize in the jurisdictions where such attachment or execution is appropriate. According to court documents, Judge Mehta determined that the Government of Belize has been given all required notices and a reasonable period of time for it to comply with the enforcement order. The judge ordered that Belize Bank Limited may now attach Government’s property to satisfy the enforcement order. This means that the US District Court has given Belize Bank limited the authority to cease properties from the Government of Belize in order to collect its thirty six million Belize dollars plus a seventeen percent interest which has been accruing on a monthly basis since September 8, 2012. That puts the debt to around 90 million dollars. The Belize Bank is trying to collect a bad loan from Universal Health Services which the Government, under the Said Musa leadership, acted as a guarantor. UHS defaulted and Belize Bank has been trying to get its monies back. When the UDP came to power, the Government rejected the bank’s attempts, resulting in a string of legal battles at home and abroad. The legal chess game between the Prime Minister and Michael Ashcroft led the Government to pass two bills to protect its assets. The Central Bank of Belize Immunities Act was passed last year in order to protect its assets, making it illegal for anyone or any legal group or company to attach the assets of the Central Bank on court proceedings. If that is done, the person responsible will be fined no more than a hundred thousand dollars or be imprisoned for no more than a year or both. The other piece of legislation, the Crowns Proceeding Act, was simultaneously passed. That bill seeks to make enforcement whether in or outside of Belize of a foreign judgement unlawful, void or otherwise invalid. The bill says that any person who seeks the enforcement of any foreign judgement commits an offence and may be fined not more than a hundred thousand dollars, or be jailed for no more than two years or both. We asked the Attorney General for a comment with respect to this development but he said he needed time to digest the judgment before he can comment. And while that happened yesterday, this morning a related case was before the Caribbean Court of Justice where Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay appeared for the Belize Bank Limited.