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#270512 - 03/06/08 12:14 AM Missing US$10 million went to Universal
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Musa comes clean; missing millions went to pay for U.H.S.

It had been rumoured ever since the new government released a letter from the Venezuelan government asking what happened to a ten million U.S. dollar gift given to Belize just prior to the February seventh election. Today, under increasing pressure to account for the funds, former Prime Minister Said Musa finally came clean and admitted that the money went to help bail out his administration from its controversial guarantee of the Universal Health Services debt to the Belize Bank. What follows is the former P.M.’s full statement.

Said Musa, Leader of the Opposition

“My fellow Belizeans, after many months of discussion and negotiations on December the twenty-eight, 2007 the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Government of Belize entered into an economic cooperation agreement for a non-reimbursable grant—gift—of U.S. twenty million. Initially, the discussion centered on a U.S. ten million dollars grant. It was agreed between the two governments that U.S. nine million was designated for housing and U.S. one million would be put towards a sports facility. It was later agreed to increase the grant by U.S. ten million dollars. Based on this agreement, U.S. ten million dollars only was transferred from the Venezuelan Development Bank, Bandes, to the Central Bank’s account for the government of Belize to assist with housing, home improvement and the sports facility respectively. U.S. ten million dollars was transferred from Bandes to the Belize Bank which settled G.O.B. debt obligations with the Belize Bank. Our understanding with the Venezuelan government was that only the housing/sports facility grant—the U.S. ten million—received by the Central Bank was to be announced until further notice.

We have been waiting for clarification from the Venezuelan government. The irrefutable facts remain: one, the Central Bank of Belize received U.S. ten million dollars for housing and the sports facility; two, thousands of needy Belizeans benefited from the housing assistance; three, the previous government secured millions of dollars to assist Belizean families to build their homes and improve their living conditions; four, the transfer of U.S. ten million dollars to the Belize Bank was to settle a controversial debt obligation. This debt obligation arose out of a government guarantee of a loan made by U.H.S. It was the subject of litigation in Belize and London that could have resulted in the Belize government having to pay the entire sum due from tax payers funds. Through this gift from Venezuela, Belizeans were relieved of this debt burden and the doors to this tertiary care facility remained open. As a result of clearing this debt, thanks to this gift by Venezuela, the people of Belize own forty-nine percent of the U.H.S. assets held in a charitable trust, The Belize Health Care Charitable Trust, for the development and provision of medical and health care services in Belize for the benefit of the people of Belize.

It is the philosophy of the People’s United Party to promote and provide equal health care for all Belizeans. The U.H.S. assets are today being managed by a private sector group which is taking the risk to invest in this medical facility. The goal is to expand the live saving services, including an oncology center to treat cancer patients.

Before making this statement I met with Prime Minister Barrow and briefed him. we both agreed that Belize and Venezuela should maintain good relations."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow is expected to comment on the matter at an airport press conference tomorrow.

Live and let live

#271978 - 03/12/08 11:08 PM Another US$10 million went to UHS [Re: Short]
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March 12, 2008

As promised Prime Minister Dean Barrow this afternoon updated the nation on the Venezuelan grant issue. Prime Minister Barrow said things were more complicated than they originally imagined as it related to payments to the Belize Bank for Universal Health Services loan.


“It now turns out based on the investigation that the Governor of the Central Bank did in fact the previous administration paid over not 10 million US to the Belize Bank with respect to the UHS debt but 20 million US. In addition to the 10 million dollars from Venezuela that we knew about the inquiry has discovered and disclosed that there was another 10 million US dollars gifted to the people and Government of Belize by the Republic of China on Taiwan.”

Barrow said the mission to Venezuela headed by Ambassador Alfredo Martinez was completely successful. He said the mission was able to get a copy of the agreement that was signed by former C-E-O Amalia Mai.


“That documentation makes clear that there was a signed agreement between Belize and Venezuela with respect to the entire 20 million dollars that Venezuela gifted to Belize and it makes clear that one million of the 20 million dollars was to have been in connection with the Marion Jones Stadium and the other 19 million dollars to be used for home construction and home improvement loans. In the case of Taiwan there is no such formal agreement but I have retrieved copies of letters, correspondence moving back and forth between the Ambassador of Taiwan in this country and the ex Prime Minister of Belize and those letter make clear that Mr. Musa had sought from the Government of Taiwan a 10 million US dollar grant for use in the healthcare system of Belize.”

The Prime Minister said there are things that need to be made clear.


“One, with respect to Taiwan there is no doubt in my mind that the Taiwanese Embassy acted legitimately, upon a legitimate request made by the then Prime Minister of this country and made out the checks in accordance with instructions of the then Prime Minister all the while covering itself by its letter that accompanied the dispatch of the checks and by the letter of reply from the Prime Minister confirming that this was for use generally in relation to healthcare. This thing is so complex that I want to signal quite clearly that there is absolutely no strain in the relations between Belize and Taiwan, there is no feeling on the part of this Government that anything that smacked of the slightest impropriety took place as between Taiwan and Belize in connection with that grant of 10 million UD dollars. Similarly with respect to the 10 million dollars from Venezuela, Ambassador Martinez and Ambassador Nestor Mendez, Belize’s Ambassador to the OAS are still in Caracas. By the time they sent their first report they had met with BANDES and with officials from the Foreign Ministry and they were to have a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. They have indicated that the officials of the Government of Venezuela has been extremely forthcoming, they have indicated that the officials of Government of Venezuela have said to them directly that contrary to what the ex-Prime Minister and the ex-Minister of Housing have said, there was never any understanding or side arrangement that this money was to be used for any purpose other than what was reflected in the formal agreement, what was reflected in the wiring instructions, what was reflected in the letter that the Venezuelans sent to Amalia Mai confirming that the money had been dispatched in accordance with her instructions.”

Prime Minister Barrow said the Government is seeking legal opinion.


“Apart from the central involvement of Said Musa and Ralph Fonseca and again I want to be careful here, cautious and prudent. Consequences or the implications of what they did, the legal implications of what they did will be pronounced upon by three different lawyers that the Government will ask, or have already asked in two of the three cases for a proper legal opinion but apart from that there is the question of the 10 million dollars wired to the Belize Bank from Venezuela with the note on the confirmation notice that this was a disbursement for the Government of Belize for its use in the construction of new homes. I have indicated to the Belize Bank that I wish to put them on notice that the Government will also betaking legal advice as to whether they are not obliged to credit that money, return that money if you will to the Government, for the people of this country.”

Barrow said in spite of the money paid to the Belize Bank Belizeans did not end up owning the hospital.


“ The enormity of what was done is compounded by this fact, 40 million dollars gifted to us by Venezuela and Taiwan was paid over to the Belize Bank. We did not end up owning the hospital; notwithstanding that 40 million dollars was paid. That money was then as we understand it deposited in the name of a charitable trust operating at Turks and Caicos, the trust is registered in Nevis but operating a Turks and Caicos Belize Bank account. In turn that money was used, five million of it, to lend Doctor Vinny as a direct loan from the Belize Bank and another eight million or so as a loan from one of the three vehicles that was used by the Belize Health Care Trust Group in connection with this whole UHS deal so all together the exact amount might be 12 or 13 million dollars was passed over to Doctor Vinny by way of loans, respectively from the Belize Bank and from Grandtayo Sociedad Anonima which is the investment vehicle of the Belize Health Care Trust Group that the Belize Bank and its principals set up. The 30 odd million dollars was used separately by the Health Care Trust Group for the purchase of UHS together with Doctor Vinny and then UHS turned around and used the same 30 odd million dollars to pay off the Belize Bank loan which I thought we had paid off at the start by way of the 40 million dollars. Upshot is that the Government and people of Belize end up having not even one single solitary share in the facility now owned by Belize Health Care Trust Group.”

Live and let live


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