On December 30th of last year, an emergency injunction was ordered by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin to halt works on Parcel 2127 located in Belama Phase 1, at the corner of Albert Hoy Avenue and Chetumal Boulevard. The injunction was granted in favor of Bernadette Pickwood, and against Maude Williams and Marvin Castillo – the mother and son of former CEO in the Lands Department and present political aspirant, Beverly Castillo.
The ban is in effect until January 21st, as the question of rightful ownership of the land is presently before the courts. What this means, in the duration time, is that no development can take place on the property, by either party and no administration affairs ought to be carried out. However, reports surfaced today, that the sanction is being disregarded by the defendants. Attorney for the Pickwood family, Audrey Matura Shepherd, was guest on this morning’s Rise and Shine, where she made the revelation, but first, a bit of a recollection on the matter of the injunction.
“…but it doesn’t end there. At 9:30, we know and we can attest that they got a copy of that letter telling them, “don’t do anything with the land; it is under dispute. They already knew of the caution, at least if the Lands Department,we had already put a caution on that land and they should have received a copy of that. Despite getting all of that, 9:30 we gave them the letter of notice; by 11:00 o’clock they bring a truck,with cement. So, they worked fast to start pour cement. I am telling you because I saw all of this with my own eyes; the press was there looking at it. We go to court at 1:00 and get the injunction, and it is granted and it is served on them; Ministry and everybody that (1) you cannot touch that land anymore: telling Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources; you cannot gazette it to make it final because it’s under dispute and (2) you cannot pass title to anyone”.
In spite of this, says Matura-Shepherd, the Williams/Castillo family has taken actions that come in direct violation of the court order.
Mrs. Audrey Matura Shepherd: “Yesterday, about 1:45, under the instruction again, of the Williams (because the manual told me it’s from the Williams) Belize Water Services Ltd. brought with them a backhoe to now dig the land and set in water, right in front of me. So, I pulled out the Order and I showed the workers. They said, “Miss, we dih ya because Ms. Williams send we”. I say, well “pawpa, mek I tell you, do you see the police station right ‘cross deh? I could go deh right now! There is an injunction on this land”.
But before all this went down, Bernadette Pickwood, who claims lawful lease of the land, was preparing to lay the foundation for her retirement home when she learned that the property was transferred to Williams and Castillo.
As you’ve heard Matura-Shepherd express, they have even gone so far as to prepare to lay concrete over the $30,000 worth of piles Pickwood set down on the property. This was prior to the injunction and the Ministry of Natural Resources has publicly defended the defendant’s claim of the land, saying that it was a legally recognized transfer and that the Pickwoods received duly notice that the lease would be forfeited.
The reason for the forfeiture says the Ministry was based on the failure to meet conditions of the lease agreement, specifically failure to make rent payment and failure to make adequate development on the land. Matura has contested the legality of the forfeiture on the grounds that no notice was given to her client and that in fact, the department’s intent was never gazetted.
Mrs. Audrey Matura Shepherd: “As you follow due process, one of the things is, if the Minister who has the rubber stamp who says it is forfeited, but that does not make it final. What makes it final, then, it has to be published in the Gazette. Now, this is not if you want. So, a letter from the Attorney for the Lands Department clearly says, “We must concede that we did not publish it in the Gazette. This is important because if it was not published in the Gazette, it is not legally forfeited and if it is not legally forfeited, you cannot reissue it to the mother of Beverly Castillo, the former CEO; you cannot issue it to Maude Williams who I am told that after her that the school is named and you cannot issue it to the son of Beverly Castillo. I am not afraid to call names because in this place, some would want to say, no call names; call names, yes”.
Commissioner of the Lands Department, Wilbert Vallejos, affirms that Beverly Castillo had no influence in the Castillo family acquiring lease of the land, but says that instead, it was conducted by way of a random selection process. Mrs. Matura says, she wants to see proof of that, as the sale price being offered to Maude Williams and Marvin Castillo on that prime piece of land is a mere $800.
“(1) I’ll apply for that land and how you all even knew how to target that land and show me all the other applicants and show me why Ms. Maude Williams and Marvin Castillo merited that land over any other Belizean and including that client. Bring me that proof; (2) I also want them to show how come that their records is there offering the sale price to to Maude Williams and Marvin Castillo for $800”.
Mr. Louis Wade: “And it has thousands of piles already on it…I presume is located in an… ”
Mrs. Audrey Matura Shepherd: “It’s across from the police station! This land is so prime that it oblige it across the police station, immediately across is a church, right on that same boulevard is Universal Premium, Westrac, Grace Kennedy, Scotia Bank; as you come out of the junction, Brodie’s is there; now let’s go to the other direction, the bridge is coming…it will link north with the west…”
Mr. Louis Wade: “Oooh, Chetumal Street!”
Mrs. Audrey Matura Shepherd: “Yes, Chetumal Boulevard! It is a prime location…$800!”
We will continue to keep a close eye on this story.