Why GOB is challenging Telemedia arbitration

Last week we told you of the Government of Belize’s intent to challenge a decision handed down on Friday by a panel of international arbitrators, based in Costa Rica, which ordered GOB to repay the British Caribbean Bank Limited US$41,773,096.04, the amount loaned plus interest to Belize Telemedia Limited in 2007 to buy back its own shares.

The Government maintains that the loan was contracted for an illegal purpose, and BTL, since nationalized by the Government, now says it should not repay.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow amplified the issue in speaking with reporters on Tuesday.

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vlcsnap-2014-12-24-05h02m52s123Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Now the lawyers have actually been able to do a more in-depth analysis of the reasons for the panel’s findings, and they are even more convinced that the panel got it completely wrong.  Having to do again with this question of legality and the fact that while some subsidiary, the Belize Telemedia Investment or somebody, was the ostensible vehicle used to purchase the shares, in effect that was at all times the creature of BTL and for that reason alone, for reasons of what Phillip Osbourne was obliged to say under cross-examination, for reasons having to do with the minutes of the meeting of the Board of Directors, that made clear what was afoot, that this was a loan for BTL to buy back its own shares, so that the Ashcroft shareholders could in fact have an increase in stock. Our lawyers are absolutely positive that this has to be challenged.”

There is a pending case before the Supreme Court of Belize, where Government is seeking a declaration that the loan was illegal and not enforceable.

BCB was declined additional compensation. It threatened to wind up BTL in 2009 at the time of nationalization, forcing Government to acquire it.

Here is what the P.M. had to say on the importance of mounting a challenge as soon as possible.

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Prime Minister Dean Barrow

They’re looking at the courses that are available, whether you wait until they seek to enforce and you take the point there.  But I think that as of now the better view is that you don’t wait, because you might run the risk of these people arguing that the matter is res judicata. If there is some manner in which a challenge can be mounted now, that is exactly what will be done.”

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Government says that it has “at all times acknowledged its obligation to pay compensation to BCB.”  With the pending case over the legitimacy of the loan from BCB to BTL still pending in the Supreme Court, Government says it has obtained legal advice on the arbitration award “and will be mounting a challenge.”

The matters of the nationalizations themselves are before the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
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