The story of Watergate is the story of a secret conspiracy at the highest level of the White House to spy on the inner deliberations of the Democratic Party.
It was the best-guarded secret of the United States until the free press broke the story and exposed the conspiracy.
President Richard Nixon had broken one of the sacred tenets of the Constitution – the right of persons and organizations to associate freely. This indiscretion eventually cost him his job. He was forced to resign as President of the world’s most powerful nation.
People elected to political authority might lull themselves into thinking that they can operate in defiance of the law. But sooner or later comes a day of reckoning when the things that were done in secret are exposed to the light of day.
The Belize experience with the Briceño tape is a case in point. For ten years Prime Minister Said Musa and his inner circle ministers could do as they please. Now, years later, they are being called to task to explain their actions.
Two charges in particular are of a serious nature. The first is that sometime in 2007, Prime Minister Musa allowed $10 million US dollars of government reserves to be diverted to a high risk investment on the Stock Exchange. The investment was a disaster and Belize lost between $3 million and $5 million US dollars.
It is not clear whether the intention behind this enterprise was to increase the reserves on behalf of the government or to ‘divvy up’ the spoils from the anticipated windfall profits. Whatever the expectation at the time, we know the investment was outside the legal authority of the Prime Minister, who is bound by clearly defined laws under the Belize Financial Revenues Act.
Mr. Musa’s subsequent claim that the Central Bank knew about the transaction is neither here nor there. The Central Bank, as the custodian of the country’s foreign reserves, would have had to know about this transaction, but it does not mean that the Central Bank gave its approval for its execution. In any case, the Prime Minister must have been fully aware of the high risk involved, and the ultimate responsibility rests with him.
Since Mr. Musa has sought to implicate the Central Bank of Belize as a willing party to the scheme, the Central Bank of Belize now has the duty and responsibility to defend its reputation before the Belizean public, and to reveal what it knows about this use of government funds to play the Stock Market.
The other charge against Mr. Musa arises from the Prime Minister’s handling of the sale of BTL to Mr. Jeffrey Prosser, the American businessman who bought the company in February 2004.
Prime Minister Musa insists that he handed over the company in good faith to Mr. Prosser without receiving any money in return. But the evidence shows that he allowed Mr. Prosser to buy the controlling shares in the company for Bz. $58 million, while owing a balance of $57 million to the government.
Prosser ran the company for ten months, sucked it dry, declined to pay dividends and neglected to honour his promissory note. Eight months later, after three extensions in August, and November 2004 and February 2005, the Prime Minister finally moved to physically expel Prosser’s Board of Directors and to replace it with a new board of Belizean directors.
Later he turned around and sold the company back to Ashcroft at a knock-down price of 20 percent off.
Mr. Musa has never been investigated for his role in the Prosser scandal or for the part he played in the Stock Exchange fiasco. He should be because the Belizean people have a right to know.