Foreign interests offer $70 million for nearly 12,000 acres of Ambergris Caye

Posted: 08/06/2007 - 11:36 AM
Author: Adele Ramos

“Recent sales of land in this area of Ambergris by the San Pedro Town Board, and we have evidence of this, is in the range of 12 thousand dollars per acre.”
- Musa to the press on September 9, 2004

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Jun. 7, 2007

It was reported last week that an American investor, Allen O. Cage, Jr., was in negotiations with the Government of Belize to purchase 8,255 acres on North Ambergris Caye for US$25 million. This week, reports surfaced that another foreign investor, Richard Lavellee, had written to the Belize Social Security Board (SSB), offering to purchase its 3,400 acres of land in the same area for US$10 million.

The lands are supposedly being purchased for a massive tourism development on Ambergris Caye that would include a casino, golf courses, health spa facilities, hotels of 400 and 200 rooms, an airport and two marinas.

The offers to Central Government and the SSB are deemed to be linked, since the draft memorandum of understanding between the Government of Belize and Cage specifies, in clause 7, that subject to an agreement with the SSB, the Government will assist the company in purchasing the SSB lands.

Recall that the Government had sold the said lands—all a part of the Pinkerton Estate that the Government had acquired in 1999—to the SSB. The SSB bought 1,000 acres in 2003, and a further 2,000 acres in 2004, when the Government found itself strapped for cash.

When the media questioned the Prime Minister about the SSB’s purchasing what had been reported to be lands with swamp for the price that it did, the Prime Minister had said that the lands had, at times, been sold for as much as $12,000 an acre. The Prime Minister had argued that the SSB was getting a great deal, with the land being sold to them for $3,400 an acre.

The foreign investors now opting for the nearly 12,000 acres of precious caye real estate are offering BZ$6,000 an acre.

We note that the interests of these investors in Belize are being questioned, since Internet searches on them reveal that they are not known as tourism developers.

Some of the officials who have been asked to review the offers are wary about supporting the sale of these lands, since very little information has been presented on these investors.

We note that 8,000 acres of this property was being offered to the Belize Bank to settle the debt of Universal Health Services Limited, but the Government reportedly aborted those talks of swapping land to settle the debt in March, when the Prime Minister signed a loan note with the bank instead.

We understand that the Social Security Board has not agreed to sell its 3,400 acres to Lavellee, as there are concerns that no background information was provided on him, and there are questions over who this investor is and what his plans are for the property.