$120 million. That is how much Belize International Services Limited (BISL), the former managers of the Corporate and Ships Registries, are demanding from the Government of Belize over the 2013 acquisition of both registries which they say is arbitrary. Their claim seeks constitutional relief for alleged deprivation of property, but before it can be substantively heard before Supreme Court Justice Michelle Arana, the Government’s attorneys, Senior Counsel Denys Barrow and Naima Barrow, applied to have it struck out.
Denys Barrow tells reporters why BISL does not deserve constitutional redress.
“The essence of it is that we maintain that the claim they brought should have been a claim for damages, for breach of contract, and should not have been brought as a claim for violation of the constitution. And it is on that basis we said to the court it is an abuse of the process, force them to come the proper way and tell them they can’t come with a false constitutional law claim.
That figure in a Belizean context for the people of Belize, to be made or have even a claim against them for 60 million US is a huge cloud to be under. It is something that you do not take lightly, it is something that you fight against, from the word get go”
Denys Barrow told us that there are other options to settle the matter, even though they disagree about the nature of the takeover and the compensation to be paid if any.
“No, I didn’t concede that there was a claim. I acknowledged that there is on the basis that they put forward that gives them a claim, if what they put forward is true. We do not accept that it is true, but we cannot deny their right to put forward that claim.
In relation to arbitration, yes, we have raised the point that the agreement, under which they are claiming that there was a breach, makes provision for this matter to go to arbitration in Belize.”
Appearing for the other side is Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay.
“The claimants have brought this claim saying that their constitutional rights to the protection of their property has been breached, that the government used force and took over the registry and took away the balance of the contract, management contracts; there are seven more years. And so we have brought that claim for substantial damages.
The Government says that it is not a breach of the constitutional right, that it’s a breach of a contractual right, and therefore the procedure that we adopted is wrong.
In response to the arguments made by my learned friend Mr. Barrow, Senior Counsel, we contended very forcefully that in fact the Government did breach our client’s constitutional rights, and we are entitled to continue, by way of a constitutional motion, to seek damages and appropriate relief.
We also pointed out to the court that, if she finds that this is a case that ought to continue as an ordinary claim for breach of damages, that is available, and the rules provide for that, and that she should reject the submission of the Government that the claim should be struck out.
So essentially, we say that the procedure we adopted is right, and if it is not correct, the court can convert the claim to an ordinary claim.”
Earlier this month BISL won a judgment voiding an assessment of $30 million in taxes claimed by the Income Tax Department for the status of operating as an international business company in Belize.
Justice Arana reserved her judgment for a later date.