The recent ruling handed down by the CCJ on a settlement deed made back in March of 2005, resolved ongoing litigation on the settlement deed drafted by the former PUP administration with BCB Holdings and Belize Bank Limited. As a part of the agreement, the Aschroft group would withdraw litigation against GOB in their dispute over BTL. But when the present Government took office, they refused to honor the deed on the claim that the then Minister of Finance, the Hon. Said Musa had no authority to sign it. In 2009, the London Court of International Arbitration ruled that GOB must pay the Ashcroft group us$44 million in arbitral award, plus 3.38% interest. But with GOB adamant on their position, the matter was brought before the CCJ. The court ruled that “The award was illegal and void” and with that, the deal was struck down, saving the country a lump sum of money. Not mincing words at this morning’s Sitting of the House, the Prime Minister the Hon. Dean Barrow shared his sentiments on the ruling
Prime Minister Dean Barrow:
It was not possible to put in the Motion all that the Caribbean Court of Justice had to say, and it was not possible to give the entire background to what has now become a transaction that will live on in infamy. But let me try to supplant the language of the motion in as short a time as I possibly can. Mr Speaker, the CCJ said that the actions of the current Leader of the Opposition and the current Member for Fort George was repugnant. These two and their actions were described as malignant chewers on our democracy which no court could allow to go. It was said that what they did, if allowed to stand, would set back the democracy of Belize by some three hundred years. It was said, Mister Speaker, that this was a classic case, if you will, of an outrageous attempt at prime ministerial governance and constituted as well over-weaning arrogance on the part of the executive, and in particular the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Fort George. The member for Fort George as Prime Minister, did say to the nation that there had been a settlement deed and that in consequence of the settlement deed – some taxes had been written off for the Belize Bank – he never told us the content of the settlement deed, he never told us how much tax had been written off and he certainly did not tell the nation that in addition to what was written off – going forward until at least 2020 – no taxes would be paid by the Belize Bank. They, as the CCJ said, carved an unalterable special regime for the Belize Bank – I heard the leader of the opposition say ‘well at least there was no corruption’ – look up corruption and see how the dictionary defines corruption – that was corruption!
Former PM the Hon. Said Musa was next up to the mic. He stated that he accepts the CCJ’s ruling and that his administration did what they did in good faith. Here’s how he defended the deed.
Said Musa – Former Prime Minister;
I accept full responsibility, but I stand up in this honorable House and say that what I did was in good faith in an attempt to settle the decision, that I acted out of noble motives and that no one on that side can successfully accuse me of making any money off this matter.
But accepting the decision of the CCJ isn’t enough rebutted Barrow.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow:
The impression all three of them sought to give is that the CCJ accepted that while this was wrongly done, it was not done out of an improper motive. Well you member of Orange Walk Central, for God sake – go read the judgment before you are seduced or traduced by what the two lawyers beside you have said. When you read that judgment – the CCJ in no way – came in even close to endorsing the motives of the ex- Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. What they said was that ‘we don’t have the evidence before us as to the motives, so we will refrain from speculating’ but when they went on to say what we do have before us – are the actions. I just read a part of the judgment again – the cloak of secrecy surrounding what they’re doing, what they were doing – the fact that the ex-Prime Minister had absolutely had no intention of ever bringing this before the public – man come on, one and one is two, you know. You got up and you said that ‘I accept the judgment of the court’ but you still tried to infuscate, still tried to prevaricate, you still tried unfortunately, to lie and to suggest that the court gave you a blye in one respect – the court gave you a blye in no respect. The court was completely condemnatory on what you did and you need to acknowledge to the people and concede to the people that there’s this other aspect of the judgment. The court said what you did was so outrageous that it shocked the public conscience in this country. You Mr. member of Orange Walk, you want to sweep this under the rug. The court said it shocked the conscience of this country but the court went on to say that let us see if in addition to shocking the domestic public conscience – it would also shock the international public conscience – that is the basis the court said in which we would then have absolutely no choice but to refuse to enforce this award. And the court found that even by all the international legal norms – what you and the leader of the opposition did – shocked universal conscience. You are not just a domestic and a local pariah – you are an international outlaw. You talk about laws passed by this government, that has been found to be unconstitutional – laws passed by the national assembly. You talk about the acquisition of Telemedia, everything was done ‘en la plena luz del dia’ – in the full light of day. We are not like you and I certainly, I’m not like you. Nobody can talk about Prime Ministerial governance in the way the CCJ absolutely harpooned you, absolutely skewered you, and absolutely eviscerated you.
You talk about my having represented Ashcroft when I was at the position and at the private bar – there was absolutely nothing wrong with that. The point I will make with this though – even as I represented Ashcroft, every time you during that period as Prime Minister, member for Port Loyola spoke about all your shenanigans and Telemdia and Prosser and so on, every time I got wind of any deal that you had done, I stood up here and I made it plain – Mr. Ashcroft can pay me as a professional to represent him in court. When I come to this house, I stand for the people of this country. And I will denounce Mr. Ashcroft every time in collusion with a corrupt People’s United Party government he does anything wrong. Then you expect to get a free pass by coming here this morning and saying ‘well I resepct the judgment of the court’ – no man. Do what you’re supposed to do, do what follows logically, don’t just respect the judgment of the court – resign. Mr. Speaker was extremely liberal with you all – oh you’re leaving? You can’t take it? Better you go but don’t come back.
[Hon Said Musa leaves the chamber]
Prime Minister Dean Barrow:
I need to express the hope Mr. Speaker that this departure will not be followed by any return, not now, not ever.
Both sides are awaiting the ruling of the Court of Appeal on the second nationalization of BTL – that has to do with how much compensation the former shareholders will receive following GOB’s acquisition of the company.