The Government of Belize announced today that a settlement has been reached with Dunkeld International Investment Limited (which held interest in Belize Telemedia Limited (“BTL”) through various companies), The Trustees of the BTL Employees Trust and British Caribbean Bank Limited, arising from the 2009 and 2011 acquisition by the Government. At the time of acquisition in 2009, Dunkeld (through various holding companies) held 71.2% shares in BTL, and the BTL Employees Trust (through its holding company, Sunshine Holding Limited) owned 23% shares. Pursuant to the Belize Telecommunications (Assumption of Control Over Belize Telemedia Limited) Orders 2009 and 2011 the Government also acquired British Caribbean Bank’s interest and rights in certain loans and securities. Particularly, the Government acquired a mortgage to BTL in the sum of US$22.5 million that both the Government and BTL contend was illegal. The Bank challenged the acquisition and commenced arbitration under the 1982 Bilateral Investment Treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Belize for the promotion and protection of investments. On December 19, 2014 the Arbitral Tribunal ruled in favor of the Bank and ordered the Government to pay compensation. Today the Government announced via a press release that as part of the settlement, the Government will pay the Bank US$48,544,927.78 representing compensation, including costs, expenses and interest. However, the amount is substantially higher than that as the Prime Minister explained at today’s press conference when prompted by Journalist Giovannie Brackett.
Hon. Dean Barrow: We’re paying the $97,400,000.00 which is where the award of the tribunal with respect to the original 22.5Million dollar US loan to BTL stands. And we’re paying with respect to the compensation to the acquisition of shares, 65,000,300 Belize Dollars. All together, a total of 162,700,000 Belize Dollars.
As part of the settlement, Government will make a partial compensation payment to Dunkeld at the rate of US$0.72 per share for 34,107,117 shares totaling US$24,557.12; and another partial payment to the Trustees of the BTL Employees Trust also at US$0.72 per share for 11,092,844 shares totaling US$7,986,848. When the Arbitration Tribunal determines the final award amount, the Government will then make a final payment of compensation over a period of time, based on that arbitration award less any amounts already paid by the Government. Government says that financing for initial partial payments to Dunkeld and to the BTL Employees Trust will come from monies held on deposit arising from the sale of BTL shares in 2010. The Prime Minister also spoke about the negotiating team at today’s press conference.
Hon. Dean Barrow: I was greatly helped in terms of formulating my own position, my thoughts, my stances by the Financial Secretary, by Ambassador Mark Espat of Hallmark. And of course by NET, who has tremendous institutional memory and knows this issues back and forth. But the actual negotiations, face to face negotiations, email negotiations were done just between AshCroft and me.
Financing for the settlement with the British Caribbean Bank will come from dividends and contribution due from BTL; from the sale of additional Treasury Notes; and from PetroCaribe funds. The Prime Minister also spoke about other unsettled matters with Ashcraft.
Hon. Dean Barrow: While we’re settling, with respect to BTL , I made the point. There is the question of UHS, where they have a huge arbitration award against us. We have succeeded, we’re not paying it, we have succeeded here at home in resisting their effort at enforcement. The courts have ruled that that UHS loan was improper, secret guarantee, all that you know so well. So there is no settlement there, I cannot settle because I’m not going to pay. It’s different when you’re talking about compensation for what we acquired. I have to pay compensation. That was clear from the start, but I’m not going to pay awards related to matters where the government’s position is in fact supported by local courts. So ditto for the Belize Bank Settlement Deed. That was the one that, as I recollect, the CCJ pronounced on when it spoke about tumors and malignancy, notwithstanding the fact that the CCJ has said that award cannot be enforced because it is void as being against public policy. They have gone to the US District Court in Washington, and in fact I think now to the Court of Appeal and gotten the US Courts to say NO, we don’t care what the CCJ says, the award is enforceable. My strength, the advantage that this country has is that we do not have any assets abroad, so you can get all the enforcement orders you wish from courts abroad. What are you going to attach? We have nothing.