Last week, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled on a settlement deed made by the Said Musa administration in March of 2005 with BCB Holdings and Belize Bank Limited to resolve ongoing litigation by means of creating a separate tax regime was contrary to public policy, and the resulting arbitral award of US$44 million plus interest given by the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) in 2010. After his meeting with Church Leaders last week Friday, Prime Minister the Hon. Dean Barrow addressed the media on the importance of the judgment which the CCJ handed down.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow:
It’s a huge victory for the Government and for the country in two ways. First very practical financial, we’re obviously relieved of the burden of paying 44 million dollars. I have no doubt that the Ashcroft Alliance might find some other way to try to collect, but practically speaking I don’t see how they can be successful. It would have put quite a dent in our finances if we had to find that money. That’s a huge relief. That aspect of the victory is very sweet. Far more important though, what the Court said about the Judiciary having to act as a break, as a check, on an overweening executive, Prime Ministerial governance. That is to me is a signal victory, not just for our country but for democracy in the region. I’m sure there are other Prime Ministers whose countries are part of the CCJ Jurisdiction that will sit up and take notice. The basis, of course, on which the Court arrived at these pronouncements, was that the Executive simply cannot arrogate unto itself powers that are properly speaking the province of the Legislature. You can’t have people signing agreements to give entities the benefit of exemption from complying with thw laws of the land, or telling them you will never have to do so and so, no matter what the Legislature might say. On the face of it it’s contradictory.
The Prime Minister also shared his thoughts on the implications on some of the other litigious issues between Government and the Ashcroft Alliance.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow:
If we look at the question of the Telemedia acquisition, it is a fact that we took the people’s property, there has to be compensation. One of the difficulties in paying compensation so far is because they are still trying to, on the face of it, get the company back. But even if they had said OK we’ll live with that, let’s talk compensation, there is this huge difference between the valuation we have of what the company was worth, and the valuation they have. The implications of this judgment for that: part of their valuation, their $10.75 or something per share, part of that is their accommodation agreement. Their valuator been instructed to incorporate in his overall valuation what the accommodation agreement and our striking down the accommodation agreement means. The CCJ ruling is absolutely clear that things like the accommodation agreement, which again said you don’t have to pay taxes except in accordance with this agreement, you don’t have to pay any attention to the Public Utilities Commission, you can ignore the law – the Telecommunications Act – these are the sorts of things that the CCJ said absolutely cannot be [approved of]. It must then be that the Accommodation Agreement is, again as I’ve always said, illegal. Therefore that aspect of the valuation, which takes into account the worth of the Accommodation Agreement, has to fall. It means, as far as I am concerned, that right away you’re talking then about compensation being far less than is currently being claimed by the former owners of Telemedia.