On Monday evening, PLUS News broke the story of the lawsuit in the Supreme Court against MMR Belize Limited, producers of the popular television game show “Mek Mi Rich”, and Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) by computer programmer and former BAHA quarantine inspector Curtis Swasey.
Two years ago, Mr Swasey came up with the idea of lottery texting – a lotto draw made completely electronic. He entered into discussions with BTL and met multiple times with the company’s executives and staff, only to be told via email last August that the company would not be able to work with him at that time as it was not within the bounds of their plans for that fiscal year.
BTL is headed by executive chairman Anwar Barrow, the son of the Prime Minister ,while and MMR’s chief director is Andre Vega, son of the Deputy Prime Minister.
The companies are accused of taking the concept as their own to create “Mek Mi Rich,” using the confidential information given them by Curtis Swasey to develop the program after BTL broke off its relationship with him in August of 2014, just weeks before “Mek Mi Rich’s” first airing.
Curtis Swasey’s attorney is Kareem Musa, and he explained it at a press briefing on Tuesday.
“That is the response after two years of engaging with Mr Swasey, after getting all this information they sent an email terminating, shutting the door on him completely. and saying, ‘You know what? That’s not in our strategy this year.’
But, low and behold, only a few weeks later we start seeing advertisements of this program ‘Mek Mi Rich.’ We start to see a man coming down a slide with some girls coming down the beach. We didn’t know what it was about. None of us knew what it was about. Certainly Mr. Swasey did not know what it was about, until the game show started, and we see that it is exactly the same type of concept as introduced by Mr. Swasey, whereby you purchase a lottery ticket by way of sending a text message.
Again, this was a concept that he developed, that he introduced, and that he sold to BTL. He had many meetings with then, and he has not received one copper for it.”
According to Kareem Musa, BTL is alleged to have violated the terms of an Information Exchange Agreement with Curtis Swasey, which contains a clause for non-disclosure of discussions and items presented between the two parties, which are classed as intellectual property. Persons inside BTL, he suggested, may have passed on the information to executives with MMR.
There is also a political dimension to the story. BTL has been owned and operated by the Government of Belize since its first acquisition from the former ownership in August of 2009 and the Prime Minister’s son, Anwar Barrow, has been in the chair there for some time.
MMR’s ownership links to the scion of another high ranking politician, as Kareem Musa explains.
“We cgot information that the company, ‘Mek Mi Rich’, was actually now operating under ‘MMR Belize Limited’. I guess the MMR stands for Mek Mi Rich. So we did a search on MMR Belize Limited and what we learnt from that search is that this company, that is now operating a similar, if not identical, game show to what Mr. Swasey had represented to BTL, this company is actually owned by two individuals. One is Cosme Hernandez and Sunil Darianani, for five thousand shares each, but what is more interesting is that the director of this company is none other than the son of Gaspar Vega, his name is Andre Antonio Vega.
So MMR Belize Limited, who is now in the business with BTL, we know the head of BTL is Anwar Barrow. I don’t know If Anwar made the decision or the board made a decision to shut the doors on Mr. Curtis Swasey, but this is an ordinary Belizean.”
Aside from politics, Kareem Musa says his client will sue for damage caused by the appropriation – he was careful not to call it “theft” – of his material by BTL and MMR.
“As I mentioned, the information exchange agreement contemplates many relief that Mr Swasey could seek. In my opinion the ship has sailed, as it relates to getting an injunction on them. They are already operating this new game show. So we have not applied for an injunction, and he has instructed us not to try to stop them, but certainly we will be seeking damages for what he has been through, for sharing this information, and for breaching this very confidential information exchange agreement, for divulging that information to a third party. We’ll be suing them for damages.”
The case continues on March 10 before Justice Courtney Abel.