Judge rules Fort Street Tourism Village cannot fetter Stake Bank project

GOB signed onto an agreement with Fort Street Tourism Village back in 2004, giving the port exclusivity in the Belize District. Years later, Michael Feinstein sought to develop another docking facility through the Stake Bank Project but because of the exclusivity contract given to Fort Street , Feinstein’s project ran into problems. The matter was taken to court and today, October 20th, a decision was passed down,  largely in favour of Feinstein. Attorney for Fort Street, Senior Counsel Rodwell Williams, says it settled most, if not all, of the issues at dispute.

Rodwell Williams, Senior Council: What I understand so far there was a claim for 5 declaration and he granted 2 declarations. Out of 5vlcsnap-2015-10-21-15h01m47s80 he refused 3 and he granted 2 declarations. So it’s sort of like a split decision I would want to think. And then there were some cost orders. I don’t know, to answer the question that you posed, I don’t know the answer, but I would and expect that negotiations would now earnestly begin, but I don’t have an answer as to the implications for that particular project.

Reporter: But the point we’re trying to get at is..

Rodwell Williams, Senior Council: The case does not deal with that project. The case dealt with the lawfulness of certain provisions and certain benefits granted in their agreement, and then there was a piece of legislation which did not really cure all the issues the case dealt  with, except with regard to putting the head tack, so to speak, on a proper legal footing and hence the reason why, as Mr. Marshalleck did in fact say of the 5 release too were granted.

Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck, the attorney for Feinstein, outlined the reliefs won by his client. Most important, he says, there is no need for any indemnity as asked for by the Government to insure against potential challenge for breach of contract.

Andrew Marshalleck, Attorney for Michael Feinstein
: The first one is a declaration of the provisions of sub paragraphs 2e, 2f and 57 of the amended agreement between the government of Belize, Belize Tourism Board, and Fort Street Tourism Village, dated 14th September 2004, are unlawful and enforceable as ultra varies the power of the executive. The second one is a declaration that the provisions of paragraph 4 of the further amended agreement between the Government of Belize, The Belize Tourism Board, and Fort Street Tourism Village dated 14th September 2004, are all pro varies in powers of the executive and inconsistent with the discharge of public responsibilities in so far as the imposition, collection and distribution of the head tax press concern.

Reporter: Sir so does this allow for your clients interest? Which is to get his project ongoing. Does this help in anyway?

vlcsnap-2015-10-21-15h01m36s221Andrew Marshalleck, Attorney for Michael Feinstein: Where we were held up was in terms of settling the investment agreement with the government. The government was insisting that my client indemnified them against possible suit for breaches of these sections. So these sections have now been found to be unenforceable, so that from our perspective there is no longer any need for an indemnity which then clears the last hurdle for the investment agreement to proceed

And Marshalleck says that because his client has just wanted to settle the terms of the agreement, he is prepared to work with all sides.

Andrew Marshalleck, Attorney for Michael Feinstein: Well our objective has always been to settle the terms of the investment agreement. Now, most of those terms had been settled as I said. The sticking point was concerned over possible liability for breach of these sections. what these sections essentially did, one of them was to say that this head tax would be payable and shared with FSTV, even in respect of passengers visiting State Bank, that’s now found to be unenforceable. The agreement itself provided for the collection and distribution at tax, and one of the fundamental basis with finding it unlawful is that there is no authority in the executive, or in the BTB to agree to impose any tax. Taxes must be imposed, collected and distributed in accordance with an act of the legislature, not of the executive which is now in place, but it means that the FSTV continues to collect taxes now not under or by virtue of the agreement that was signed in 2004, but under by virtue of the  authority conformed by the statue, the agreement has been found to be unlawful.

According to Marshalleck there remains some issues to be worked out but the main sticking points addressed by this case are now dealt with for the most part. FSTV is only allowed to share in taxes for those passengers coming directly to it, and not through Stake Bank.

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