Banks Holdings and CPBL in court

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After a delay of several months the case between Banks Holdings Limited of Barbados and the Belize Citrus Growers Association Investment Company Limited and Citrus Products of Belize Limited reached trial before Justice Rita Joseph Olivetti, but any arguments have been put on hold. On Monday afternoon, after half a day’s adjournment, Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck informed the court that the two sides have come to terms on a settlement of the dispute between them. The dispute centers on three matters: the appointment of a chairman to the CPBL board of directors, the method by which decisions of the board are taken, and last but not least the management of the company, including the fate of CEO Dr. Henry Canton, whom citrus growers have repeatedly accused of bad faith and bad management but have been unable to remove. Neither side was willing to speak on record as they left the court as to the substance of the settlement or even the nature of the dispute itself, but in court this morning Derek Courtenay, attorney for Banks, suggesting that they wanted relief on the matter of possible arbitration of the dispute, which is allowed by the terms of the Investment Agreement. The agreement states that where there is a material dispute, defined as a problem that is not settled within 45 days of that determination, relief is entitled. He asked Justice Olivetti to make a declaration that the nature of the dispute and the surrounding circumstances are such that it would result in the winding up of CPBL, a claim strenuously rejected by the other side who are represented by Eamon Courtenay as they believe the court has no jurisdiction to make that declaration. Courtenay further added that there is absolutely nothing stopping the two sides from going to arbitration under the terms of the Investment Agreement. That was when the court asked both sides to meet in chambers. After about an hour they emerged only to split up into separate meetings, after which Derek Courtenay asked for further adjournment to this afternoon, when the settlement was announced. BHL and ICL have been at odds over the management of CPBL since 2010, when there was an unsuccessful attempt to remove Henry Canton as chief executive officer of CPBL. CPBL is the chief processor for the millions of boxes of orange and grapefruit delivered annually by farmers from around the country to be made into juice and other products. After an initial investment agreement was signed in 2006 and amended in 2007, conflict between the two parties first arose in 2010 over the status of Canton and has deepened since to the point where according to attorney for BHL, Derek Courtenay, the two sides have been unable to agree on things as simple as the appointment of a chairman for meetings. We are further informed that the two sides need an extraordinary general meeting simply to appoint an auditor for the company. ICL, we have also been told, is close to an agreement to possibly buy out Banks’ shares in the company, but neither side would confirm even that. Information to PLUS News is that Banks is in heavy financial trouble back home with regard to their dairy industry, such that statements of their cash flow indicate they even had trouble paying their bankers last year. Both sides have undertaken to get the matter resolved within 21 days, or the case comes back to court.

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