Losing streak continues $360 Million lost in litigation

The Government of Belize, this week, sustained its latest in a series of court battle losses, totaling over $360 Million.
On Wednesday, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) overturned the Belize Court of Appeal’s ruling in the case of GOB vs. the Belize Bank on the controversial Universal Health Services (UHS) loan agreement, signed under the Said Musa, People”s United Party (PUP) administration. The ruling means that GOB will have to pay the Belize Bank $90.6 million, of which $52 million is in accrued interest over time spent on unsuccessful litigation.

The court dismissed GOB’s argument that paying the arbitration award was against public policy, by noting that the Government of Belize had affirmed that the legal guarantee was legal and enforceable. The Court also said that the Privy Council, Belize’s highest appellate court at the time, had also validated the agreement that GOB was obligated to pay.
GOB said that it was seeking legal advice on the matter, because the loss did not seem fathomable, given consistent victories in the lower courts.

“The lawsuit arose from a dispute stemming from one of the most egregious and scandalous acts of the Musa administration, where the then government secretly diverted US$20 million that was granted by the Venezuelan and Taiwanese governments for social programs for needy Belizeans, to pay towards a loan the PUP had contracted for UHS,” GOB said. “With the lower courts being consistent in their rulings, GOB is at a loss to understand this latest decision by the CCJ.”

Before making the payment, GOB has to take the issue to parliament and get a majority “yes” vote. Belize Bank attorney, Eamon Courtenay, explained that if parliament votes “no” the Bank will seek a court order demanding that the Minister of Finance, Prime Minister Dean Barrow, return to parliament and come back with a “yes” vote. Courtenay said that violating that court order would put the minister in contempt of court and he could face imprisonment.

Musa, after the ruling, told the media that he felt vindicated by the outcome because the court ruled that the agreement he made was valid and enforceable.

In October, GOB lost a US $78 million case in the United States to Dunkeld International Investments Ltd. and the BTL Employees Trust. The government also lost three arbitration enforcement cases in the US in January one to Caribbean Investment Holdings valued at US $22.5 million; one to Belize Social Development Limited (BSDL) valued at US $22.5 million, and one to the American investor company Newco, valued at BZ $8.5 million plus interest.

Additionally, GOB lost a US $22 million lawsuit to former PUP Minister, Glenn Godfrey. The value of just the litigation awards alone totals some BZ $377.1 million. The majority of the losses were in respect to government’s nationalization of Belize Telemedia Limited in 2008.

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