The Belize Bank Limited has lost its correspondent banking relationship with Bank of America in the United States, which removes its ability to host wire transfers for customers. As the largest private commercial bank in Belize, Bank of America’s decision affects thousands of customers. Minister of Finance, Prime Minister Dean Barrow, brought up the issue at the recent regional Summit of the Americas in Panama and in subsequent meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama along with other regional leaders. The decision does not affect other services but in his recent meeting with Bank of America officials in Miami, he received reassurances that the Bank will not cut its relationship with the remaining commercial banks in Belize, as it holds similar relationships with all of them.
“They have already moved to terminate the relationship with the Belize Bank, and I believe tomorrow is the expiration of their termination deadline. I want to make clear that Bank of America insists that there is nothing that the Belize Bank has done wrong. There is some misalignment according to them between their business module and the business module of the Belize Bank. Behind that particular formulation there may be other considerations, and indeed Bank of America said there is a matrix of reasons of factors that resulted in taking the decision they did. But none of those factors had to do with any kind of wrong action, any kind of irregular activity or practice on the part of the Belize Bank. It’s fundamental that I make that crystal clear, there is no question of any type of blame, there is no question of any type of wrong doing on the part of the Belize Bank.”
Despite his own past issues with the Bank and chief shareholder Lord Michael Ashcroft, P.M. Barrow is reassured that the Bank’s troubles are not a result of its own moves and the Central Bank of Belize will step in on a temporary basis to handle wire transfers for Market Square while it sorts out its issues.
“And the Central Bank is in a position, and this has been accepted, this has been one of the things I sought from Bank Of America and one if things I obtained. The Central Bank is able to do these wire transfers on behalf of every and any Belize Bank client. The Belize Bank’s also taking other steps to ensure that they in fact are able to facilitate without any real disruption these wire transfer transactions.”
The international partner of the Bank has closed its offices in the Commercial Free Zone, but according to the Prime Minister, customers need not fear continuing to do business with the Belize Bank.
“I wanted to be careful because when you start assuring people that nothing is wrong that’s exactly when they start thinking that something is wrong, the mere fact that. And especially when these assurances come from politicians. But it is, and especially since I am such a different politician and known to be such a truth teller, it is important I thought to make clear that nobody needs to feel that he/she has to stop doing business with the Belize Bank, absolutely not the case, no need for that, and I am here to underline that fact.”
The Bank of America’s decision takes effect on April 30.