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GOB Faces Another Lawsuite

June 22
14:31 2018

By Benjamin Flowers
Staff Reporter

The government of Belize is again faced with a multi-million dollar lawsuit over the nationalization of the International Merchant Marine Registry of Belize (IMMARBE) and the International Business Companies (IBC) registry.

GOB headed to the Court of Appeal this week for the second round of litigation, following a failed attempt at suing for $90 million by the appellant, Belize International Services Limited (BISL), which ended in 2015. Eamon Courtenay represented BISL and Solicitor General Nigel Hawke represented GOB. The court reserved its judgment but did not announce a date for it to be delivered.

Courtenay explained that the major points of contention in the case are that GOB terminated the contract with BISL when the company still had 7 years left and that there was an issue with how the money made from the sale of Belizean flags to fishing vessels was collected and distributed.
“…the contract provided that the monies that were collected by the registries were paid into two escrow accounts and then certain deductions were made from them, the balance was split between the company and the government, the money was paid over to the government,” Courtenay explained.
He added that they lost the first case because Justice Arana accepted the argument that the monies should have been paid to the consolidated revenue fund and not into the escrow accounts. Courtenay said that BISL offered an alternative that the contract be amended to ensure that provision, but GOB refused and just took the company.

GOB’s arguments were that at the time the government took over the company, BISL’s contract should have already ended in 2005; however, the Said Musa administration of the People’s United Party had secretly extended the contract up to 2020, making the extension illegal and leaving GOB within its right to nationalize.

Hawke explained that GOB’s acquisition was lawful under Section 1:14 and Section 4:2 of the finance and audit reform act because the Constitution requires certain issues in relation to public monies being deposited into the consolidated revenue fund. He emphasized that because the contract was unconstitutional and as such could not be amended.

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