Developer of the Stake Bank/Drowned Cayes cruise port project, Michael Feinstein, is suing the Government of Belize and owners of the Fort Street Tourism Village over agreements signed in the early infancy of the Village around 2004. Feinstein is arguing that the “head tax” collected by Government is not properly budgeted for in the Consolidated Revenue Fund and that the 2004 agreements are void. If Supreme Court Justice Courtney Abel agrees then both Feinstein and FSTV are seeking damages from the Government. Trial was originally slated for this week, beginning today, but the two sides are behind in preparation and the trial date was shifted to the 11th and 12th of June. We spoke to attorneys for both sides: Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck for Feinstein and Senior Counsel Rodwell Williams for FSTV.
“What has happened is that his original claim is now complicated by an auxiliary claim that has been joined in so that now both sets of claims have to be disposed of. And that has necessitated further instructions and so that’s what the delay is about. So the case is getting bigger.”
“Can you tell us about the new addition to the case?”
“It is a conditional claim, an auxiliary claim, whereby the Fort Street Tourism Village is saying if it is that Mister Feinstein’s claim is correct and the government lacks the authority to execute an agreement in those terms with them, then government is in breach of a warranty that they gave in the contract with them that they were authorize to do it and is liable to them for damages.”
“In any event, there is what is called an ancillary claim brought by FSTC to say look guys, if it turns out that it is a tax, and therefore not in compliance with the requirements prescribed by law, then both Feinstein, the claimant who sold to FSTV and gave it certain warranties and reps—remember they were the one under the asset purchase agreement, they were the ones who operated the Belize Tourism Village historically, but they sold out to FSTV—then you guys are in breach of your reps and warranties. G.O.B., who gave FSTV the 2004, 2007 agreements, you guys are in breach of your warranties. You said you were competent to do what you did and now if the court says you weren’t competent, then the ancillary claim is directed to recover damages.”
According to Williams, there was opportunity for settlement but the legal issues surrounding the claim are complicated enough involving issues of both public and private law that it has to be settled in court.
“The case has been brought by Mr. Feinstein is in the court, so you simply have to deal with it. That’s the appropriate forum. It’s not a matter of what else could have been done. He is the instigator, so to speak, he has brought it into his forum, so it has to be addressed. Of course, parties are always free to come tyo terms otherwise. It’s a public law issue, right, but it’s combined with an auxiliary claim which is a private law issue. So it’s like, how you woulda seh, ‘Hog and something else, beef and pork – kind of chopped up and mixed up. So it’s quite complicated, I’s not really public law, private law kind of like wearing your sneakers and your shoe, maybe you wah do one foot of sneakers, one foot of show kind of thing. But it’s interesting but that’s just the nature of the case. You can only tend to have Private law dispute go to mediation, you know, but public law issues, you’re talking about not just the litigants rights but the publics interest. , and that’s a different thing.”