Six years ago the Belize Telemedia Limited, then known as the Belize Telecommunications limited, was natioanlize by the Government of Belize after it had been sold off to a private owner – Michael Ashcroft. Since its acquisition, the government of Belize has grappled in the courts with the former owners of BTL which were all Ashcroft Allied companies. In a press conference yesterday, the Government of Belize announced its settlement with the former owners of the company. Today the government introduced a Bill to facilitate the settlement of the acquisition of BTL. That Bill was heatedly debated today at the House of Representatives.
Hon. Francis Fonseca: Really Mr. Speaker the scandal here is that we are paying 16% interest over 6 years. This 97Million, let’s be clear. The original loan was 22.5 Million US which is 45 Million BZE dollars. With interest of 16% over 6 years, that has now amounted to 97Million BZE dollars. Gaan from 45Million dollars to 97Million Belize dollars, all because of one man’s stubborn pettiness. That is what we have here. The Prime Minister new fully well Mr. Speaker that compulsorily acquiring the banks rights under the loan, it had concluded with Telemedia was absolutely unlawful and illegal. He knew that at the time. He knew it, but because he was advancing this personal petty agenda, he went ahead and did it in any case and now the Belizean people must pay 52Million dollars. 52Million dollars for that stubborn pettiness.
Hon. Said Musa: Implement what we don’t know what is the final terms of the settlement. We are being asked to approve not only a 162Million Dollars but also for whatever the arbitration on the compensation issue comes up with in addition to this 162Million dollars. According again to the Prime Minister, even if the arbitral award were to strike a balance, a middle road so to speak, of 5 dollars a share instead of the 1 dollar and 44 cents of
share which he is agreeing to pay under the valuation. That would mean, and the people of Belize need to hear and know this Mr. Speaker that we are being asked to approve what may turn out to be a 400Million dollars compensation to Micheal AshCroft or to BTL or to whoever the owners, or were the previous owners of BTL.
Hon. Dean Barrow: Pay the additional interest. Again let me make clear that is convoluted and simply round headed to say that the tax payers of this country are finding even a penny to pay that BCB loan award. It comes from the company, Belize Telemedia, and you cannot say well because the government and people own Telemedia this is somehow to be equated with costing the taxpayers of the country. That is ridiculous. First of all, there are small shareholders in BTL. Somebody pointed out, the Minister of housing that he as a small shareholder is getting his dividend payment. There is SSB, there is I believe the Central Bank so there are all those entities involved in the ownership of BTL and that is why as a private company, even though it is majority owned by Government, BTL is run in an automatous sovereign fashion by its board of directors and that board of directors thought it well worth risk that board of directors will now have to pay for that fact that that course of action proved not to be successful.