By Marion V. Ali
Pedro Guerra, a Corozal businessman, plans on taking a fisheries officer to court to recover $73, 600 after the officer allegedly encouraged him into making a bad investment.
According to Guerra, a cane farmer by profession, the officer used his authority and insider’s knowledge to con him into making an investment in the sea cucumber business that yielded him neither sea cucumbers nor profits. In fact, Guerra claims that he has netted losses of up to $64,000, including a $35,000 fee for a fish exporter’s license, which lawfully costs $35.00.
Guerra, who has since acquired the services of an attorney claims, by virtue of a demand letter written from his attorney to the officer, a number of allegations. Among them, that the officer promised to get him a license to export frozen sea cucumbers; that the officer guaranteed lucrative yields in an industry where only one other businessman would have benefitted from a license.
Documents acquired by The Reporter indicate that Guerra acquired a loan from the bank for the $35,000 “permit”, which was paid to the officer, plus another $29,000 for the purchase of 3075 pounds of sea cucumbers. The projection anticipated a purchase cost of Bz $9 and a selling price of US $21 per pound.
The sea cucumbers were to be acquired from a batch that the Fisheries Department had confiscated in February and had stashed in freezers for safe keeping. The officer, it appears, tried to use his authority to gain from the sale of the confiscated cucumbers. But problems arose when Guerra never got the promised goods – even after he paid in full. In fact, he later discovered that several other people had licenses to export sea cucumbers.
The letter from Guerra’s attorney to the fisheries officer states in part, that he (the officer) promised to use his “inside connections at the Belize Fisheries Department to enable him (Guerra) to make lucrative profits”. It accuses the officer of fraudulently inducing Guerra into making an investment, which resulted in significant financial loss.
Guerra is now claiming the $64,000 he invested, plus $9,600 in costs. Since the officer was given until September to respond and still hasn’t, we’ve gathered that the matter is now a full-fledged court issue.
Beverly Wade, the Fisheries Administrator, was tied up in meetings all day Thursday and Guerra’s lawyer would not share much more than is already known because the matter is now before the court.