A conflict with other court cases kept litigants in the case of Michael Feinstein and the Attorney General and Fort Street Tourism Village from proceeding today in the Supreme Court of Justice Courtney Abel. Fort Street Tourism Village and the Feinstein Group have gone to court over the agreements signed in the early 2000’s for the then-Belize Tourism Village that gave it exclusive rights to dock cruise ship passengers. Michael Feinstein is now preparing to build his own docking facility at Stake Bank off the mainland. The Government of Belize is monkey in the middle and Prime Minister Dean Barrow has spent the last few months meeting with all sides, trying to stave off litigation. It is reported that on June 26 a bill in the House of Representatives will legislate for the head tax – the monies collected from passengers entering Belize of which various entities receive a portion. But if that goes through as planned, it only solves part of the problem. Following today’s aborted session we spoke with Feinstein for the first time. He says he is not depending on the legislation to solve his problems, and also discusses his so far unsuccessful attempts to reach out to the Village to join his investment.
“It is what it is. We have to wait and see. I haven’t seen the draft so I cannot comment.”
“So in relation to the talks that have been ongoing in which the prime minister has been talking with some of the other parties for FSTV. Where are we with that? And is there any possibility of any sort of settlement or do you think that you all will have to continue to pursue this to the fullest extent in court?”
“We had an obligation to give them a first right of refusal as far as investing. We’ve done that; they have not responded. We made a second attempt verbally to have them make an offer or participate in shareholding and they again have not responded. So there is nothing from the other side as far as I am concerned.”
Feinstein called the further delay unfortunate and says he awaits his day in court. His attorney, Andrew Marshalleck, discusses their main argument over the exclusivity arrangements for the Village.
“We challenged a number of provisions in the existing agreement between FSTV and the government on the basis that the government lacks authority to enter into obligations or to seek to contract obligations of that nature. Specifically, they have to do with one, designating Belize district….designating the Fort Street Tourism Village as the only port of entry for cruise ship passengers to the Belize District. As you know, these exclusivity arrangements have always been suspect of the validity and legality primarily because the government by contracting with the FSTV that it will not be granting any licenses to anybody or designating any other port of entry, is essentially deciding the application of all these potential future applications negatively, even before they’ve seen them. And we are saying that that kind of thing takes an effect on executive action and is really outside of the executive.”
The Village is claiming damages in an ancillary claim for future losses from the head tax which the legislation aims to correct and legalize. But Marshalleck believes that the other side is hoping that that legislation jettisons part of their worries – a tactic which seems familiar.
“I fully expect that that will be the position on the 18th because I understand the House meeting isn’t schedule until the 26th or there about and the object of this exercise is to push things back pass the date when the Act is feasible so that the Act can be brought back to court in answer to the claim. Again, it sounds familiar.
Aaron Humes – Plus TV Reporter
“Is that a concern for you? I know, as you said, it really does nothing for your client, but in terms of the practice of the law and executive and legislative actions, is that a little concerning that they will pass this specifically…?”
“Not really. I can’t say that it will do anything for Mr. Feinstein because we really haven’t seen it. That would be speculation. What I said is; if it is to regularize the collection and distribution of the taxes, it addresses FSTV’s concern but it does not addresses Mr. Feinstein’s claims in their entirety.”
Deputy Solicitor General Nigel Hawke appeared for the Attorney General’s Office and Senior Counsel Rodwell Williams for Fort Street. The case returns to court on June 18.