The Supreme Court, in 2016, dismissed claims made by Belize International Service Limited , BISL, against the Government of Belize to the tune of 90 million dollars for breach of contract. Those claims arose after the compulsory acquisition of IMMARBE and IBCR in June of 2013 by the government of Belize. BISL argued that 7 years remained on their contract with the Government of Belize and that 90 million dollars is the amount of profits BISL would have earned over the remaining 7 years. However, Justice Arana dismissed the claims after deeming the agreement between the two parties as unlawful, due to the manner in which public funds were being handled. In January of this year, the Court of Appeal heard an appeal brought by Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay on behalf of Belize International Service Limited against the Government of Belize. Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay argued that the Supreme Court was wrong in ruling that the agreement was unlawful. According to Courtenay the agreement between G.O.B and BISL withstood 20 year without complaint. Courtenay further argued that the court had the ability to amend any clauses of the agreement that it considered unlawful while leaving the agreement intact. That case concluded today at the Belize Court of Appeal, where we heard from Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay.
Eamon Courtenay, Senior Counsel: Our argument is that the provisions of the contract are in compliance with the law, that you can read Section 114 of the Constitution as being consistent or the contract being consistent with Section 114 of the Constitution. We put an alternative argument to the court that if it is not consistent, then you excise that and the money will go to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Then from there, the component will be paid its part. It’s as simple as that. Who gets the money first? First it used to go into the Escrow Accounts and then to the government. The government says now it should go to the government and then to the company. And our position was ‘well if that is so, excise those provisions from the contract and the monies will flow automatically into the Consolidated Revenue Fund and then the company will get its share’. The government for its own reasons decided not to negotiate an amendment to the agreement. They simply took over the registry.
Solicitor General, Nigel Hawke, representing the Government of Belize, told the media that the fact remains that the agreement between the two parties was in violation of the constitution.
Nigel Hawke, Solicitor General: Well our position fundamentally is this, (and I think they have accepted somewhat) that there has not been compliance with Section 114 and Section 42 of the Financial Audit Reform Act, because the constitution requires certain issues in relation to public monies being deposited into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. We think the agreement does not offend those provisions. The point we are trying to make when we mentioned that the agreement should have gone to parliament is that in the agreement there are some aspects of collection of taxes. And we are saying, once it has to do with the collection of taxes, it should have some parliamentary sanction. Remember this is just an agreement between the government and the other party. I wouldn’t hazard a guess, (on why the government did not take the option you mentioned of amending the contract) but what I will say is that the fact remains it was an agreement. And that on the face of it is in violation of Section 114 of the Constitution. Whether I entered into it or any other person entered into it, it doesn’t change the fact that all parties are to comply with the provisions of the Belize Constitution.
The ruling has been reserved until a future date.