Editorial

Editorial

A major stumbling block to the settlement of the BTL dispute has always been the bizarre terms of the 2008 Loan Agreement between the Ashcroft-led Directors of BTL and British Caribbean Bank.
The loan agreement was for Bz. $45 million, structured in such a way that any default by the company would trigger a confiscatory interest rate of 16 percent.
Informed opinion in Belize is that this was done to discourage any possible take-over by the Government of Belize. It appears that the company had had premonitions of a take-over and so engineered the loan contract with the Ashcroft-owned British Caribbean Bank as a hedge to protect itself.

Disclosures made by the Managing Director of BTL, Mr. Nestor Vasquez Sr., reveal that in the two years prior to nationalization in 2009, Belize Telemedia Limited paid out dividends amounting to two times the annual profit of the company.

BTL as a privately owned company at the time, allowed its directors wide discretion to do as they please. And the empirical evidence suggests that the Ashcroft group running BTL was intent on milking the company for all it was worth, while at the same time insisting on a government subsidy in the form of General Sales Tax withholdings.
Given these circumstances, the Government of Belize was persuaded to intervene to take over the company and its operations.

The turn-around in the company’s fortunes after nationalization was immediate and dramatic, and it quickly became clear that BTL under British management was being exploited and squeezed dry.
Under these circumstances the loan agreement with British Caribbean Bank seemed highly suspect. Which sane company borrowing so large a sum of money would agree to punitive interest rates of 16 percent?

But BTL was a privately owned company at the time. Its directors were not only immune from outside interference, but the lop-sided loan agreement made with British Caribbean Bank also had legal validity in the eyes of the Caribbean Court of Justice.

This explains why Belize opted to settle the claim when it did. The loan agreement with British Caribbean Bank was Machiavillian in concept. It was clever. It was rogueish. But it was legal!
No wonder Mr.Ashcroft has sought to disassociate himself from this company by now insisting that he had no economic interest and no direct hand in the deviousness of Belize Telemedia Limited!

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