The Ashcroft Group of Companies has lost its bid for enforcement of a multi-million dollar award in the Supreme Court.
Today Justice Shona Griffith delivered her judgment, stating that after consideration of arguments, the Court had determined that it could not order the enforcement of the award, in the region of BZ $40M, granted by the London Court of International Arbitration.
The matter arises from the infamous loan guarantee, signed for Universal Health Services during the previous PUP administration. The agreement was signed by former Prime Minister Said Musa and current PUP leader Francis Fonseca without the knowledge or consent of parliament. Musa then paid off that debt to the Belize Bank, using $20M in grants from Taiwan and Venezuela. The Barrow administration recovered that money from the Belize Bank through the Central Bank, leaving that institution out of pocket.
The decision by the past administration is believed to have caused its downfall in 2008, and today it returned to haunt the bank. While a panel of international arbitrators have ruled that the loan is valid and so is the promissory note, Justice Shona Griffith says that she cannot grant the enforcement of that award by the LCIA, simply because the matter was never taken before Parliament for approval. The Finance and Audit Reform Act of 2005, states that any loan over $10M requires a resolution of the National Assembly.
On Thursday GOB attorney, Deny Barrow told reporters that “if there has been no parliamentary approval, but simply the making of the agreement by the Executive, by the Government, then the question of getting paid is a separate question. and you cannot get paid unless the National Assembly approves the paying of the money.”
Despite what has the indication of a significant defeat on Thursday, attorney for the Belize Bank, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay remains unfazed, because he maintains that the Court has not denied the validity of the promissory note. On Thursday afternoon he held a briefing at his law office, and told the media that “the Belize Bank is out of pocket. So it is not that the Court has found that the government does not owe. An arbitral tribunal established that that money is owed by the Government of Belize. The sole question was a technical one as to whether there was compliance with the Constitution.”
Because the Bank feels that it lost the case on a technicality it has determined that it will take the matter to the Court of Appeal, and if necessary to the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Meanwhile, the Ashcroft Group of Companies awaits the decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice on the acquisition of BTL and BEL, and also on monies which they claim the Government owes to British Caribbean Bank.