The Amendment to the Criminal Code, Chapter 101, which was tabled at Wednesday’s Senate meeting, seeks to “Make provision for the extension of the offences of extortion and corruption to the private sector; to create the offenses of piracy, insider trading, hostage taking and illegal restraint, fraud and illicit trafficking in stolen goods.” On the surface, one might say that it would make for an ideal and much needed piece of legislation; however, Senator for the Opposition, the Hon. Lisa Shoman contests that while the bill is well intended, the wording is unacceptably vague and requires revision. One such element mentioned by the Senator is the term “insider trading,” an offense which in accordance with the bill, would carry a minimum sentence of 2 years or a maximum of 10 years in addition to a fine.
Hon. Lisa Shoman- Opposition Senator
“Unfortunately, it would seem to me that poor drafting is to blame…and I am sorry that that should be so. But it is…to my mind, nothing less than poor drafting why we have the kind of flabby language that we have in here. Inside our trading is not, to my mind, properly defined. It simply says: A person shall not trade using inside information or communicate inside information to others who will or are likely to trade on the inside information. So, weh that mean? What that really means? Because, let me tell you, businessmen and women in Belize daily trade using this kind of information as defined in this Act. Insider information trading is a particular crime in jurisdictions where there is, for instance, a stock market, and you are under financial or fiduciary obligations to keep certain knowledge private about how stocks can be traded, about whether a Company, for instance, is about to declare bankruptcy, about whether there are issues, so as not to influence and to use that information to be able to gain an unlawful and unfair advantage on the stock market. What if I tell one of my colleague- Senators here that, you know, Lizarraga no got permit fuh do XYC, so, mek we go deal with somebody else! Could they fall prey to this kind of offence? I would ask the leader of Government Business for us to have proper advice on the matter and for there to be a full and proper definition place within the Criminal Code, so we can be very clear as to what that insider trading information is. For instance, letting your colleagues know that the Government is about to forgive these loans, so, all ah unuh could go rush go get loan? It that’s what meant, then I think we can all agree that that’s the kind of thing we would all want to prevent”.
Responding was Hon. Godwin Hulse.
Hon. Godwin Hulse- Senator, Minister of Immigration and Leader of Government Business
“While I must reiterate the fact that these bills, I think of, had their first reading in the House sometime in the month of…around August the 5th or 7th, and subsequently went to committee, and there were several amendments made in the committee of the whole House of Representatives as I understand it. These, obviously…this one, perhaps was not in detail looked at, the Honourable Clerk has asked the Legal drafts-person in the Committee on the Whole to give us an audience, so we can have some sort of explanation as to that particular language. The comments are taken into consideration, but I would like to reiterate the fact that for the many years that I have been in this Senate, I’ve known this Senate to do this type of work, but also there is a rep…there is a need for people to make representations of the Committee, and to make their issues known there, so, we do not find ourselves in the Senate looking at drafting issues that may have been highlighted by Senator Shoman”.