By Marion Ali, Staff Reporter
In another twist to the ongoing developments of the Bradley Paumen/Michael Modiri property feud, Deputy Prime Minister and former Minister of Natural Resources (Lands), Gaspar Vega, has denied instructing the Lands Department to compulsorily repossess land from Modiri to accommodate Paumen.
In an interview with reporters following Friday’s House meeting, Vega denied an affidavit presented during the court case last year, in which Wilbert Vallejos, the Lands Commissioner who worked under Vega while he [Vega] was Minister responsible for lands, that “the instruction came from the Minister.”
In refuting the claim on Friday, Vega said: “I don’t know if Mr. Vallejos said that, but I did not give such – if that’s where you’re going to I did not give such a directive…I remember that there was – not a real dispute, but I think the man wanted an access to his land and government had acquired a piece of land from someone else for him to be able to have access to his land. We went to Court and the ruling had said, if I’m not mistaken, that it was done improperly…because it had to be the Ministry of Works who would have the technical people to see if that was the right…the adequate piece of land to access…Mr. Paumen’s parcel.”
Vega explained that he was not aware of Vallejos’ claim, which was made in mid-2015, and only found out on Friday when the media brought it to his attention. When asked if the matter was placed on his desk as the then Minister of Lands, Vega responded: “I remember the case and the only thing that – if I’m not mistaken, that even came to Cabinet and the only thing we were concerned about is that Paumen was making a significant investment in tourism on that parcel of land and we were trying to see if he could be helped in getting access to his land.”
Modiri, who was away when the Ministry made the decision, discovered upon his return to Belize, the repossession of his land, and that a road had already been built on the land to accommodate Paumen to access his property which he uses to operate his business, called Dark Night tours.
In the Supreme Court ruling last year, Justice Sonya Young found the Ministry’s decision to be improper and referred to the case as, “a strange tale of a man’s property being bulldozed and cleared without his permission.”
Paumen, meanwhile, is caught in a web of accusations, charged now for plotting the murders of Modiri and three others.
Vega had asked Prime Minister Barrow to relieve him of the Lands portofolio months before the November fourth General Elections, on grounds that its demands were taking a toll on him.