Chief Justice strikes out long-running tort of misfeasance case

This morning, Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin struck out the long-running tort of misfeasance case filed by the Government against former PUP Ministers Jose Coye and Florencio Marin, Sr. The two men were accused of “deliberate and dishonest abuse of office or the purported exercise of official power otherwise than in an honest attempt to perform the relevant duties of his office, resulting in loss or damage.” This charge came after the government claimed that the men acquired 59 parcels of land in University Heights area of Caribbean Shores through CHEOP Enterprises, ran by a relative of one of Coye’s employees between December of 2007 and February of 2008. According to the government, the land was acquired for some $924,000 – which is below the estimated market value. The case was first dismissed by Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh in 2009, but in 2011 Belize appealed that decision at the Caribbean Court of Justice and was granted a re-trial. Since then, according to Coye, the matter has crumbled, as the Government’s side continually delayed the case while trying to gather the evidence against him and Marin. After the Chief Justice struck out several affidavits based on “hearsay” testimony, and after an audit report from the Office of the Auditor General revealed that there was “no wrongdoing” found in their investigation of the CHEOP project, all parties met back in court this morning. Counsel who represented the Government – Nigel Hawke appeared to throw in the towel, asking the Chief Justice to adjourn one last time to consult with his principals. He admitted that the court might well wish to strike out the case in regard to the state of evidence presented by the Government but said that he personally was not in a comfortable position to withdraw. Well, The Chief Justice did indeed strike the case out, stating that from the remaining evidence there was no proof of any loss accrued to Government. Coye told the media that his personal reputation has been irrevocably tarnished by this series of events, but maintains that this morning’s decision was “not a victory for Joe Coye, but a victory for Belize…because the judge was courageous enough to do the right thing.” He added that he is now a private citizen and will discuss with his counsel, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, any plans to sue the Government in relation to this case. The Government must also pay Coye’s and Marin’s court costs.

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