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#410576 - 06/25/11 09:23 AM Seismic Event: Ashcroft Alliance Re-take Telemedia
Marty Online   happy

Eamon Courtenay

The Court of Appeal today delivered a massive blow to the government in the 2009 acquisition of Belize Telemedia. The ruling reverses an order made by the government to compulsorily acquire the telephone company from the Ashcroft Group. It was handed down at four this afternoon. The drama mounted because there was first a notice for ruling for ten a.m. that was moved by the Court Registrar to two o’clock and then to late afternoon. Telemedia was nationalized back in August 2009 with government acquiring ninety-four percent shares in the company. It was challenged in the courts by Dean Boyce as Chairman of the Executive Committee and the Board of Trustees. In July 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that government’s acquisition of the company was constitutional. Boyce appealed that ruling and today the Court of Appeal gave its decision. The courtroom was packed to capacity as the ruling was delivered by Justice Brian Alleyne. Essentially it nullifies the acquisition and hands back Telemedia to the previous owners removing it from government control. That decision was contained in a one hundred and fifty page document, in which the justices found that the government did not have sufficient reasons to compulsorily acquire the company for public purpose. Attorneys Godfrey Smith and Eamon Courtenay spoke to News Five about today’s ruling.

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney

“The most fundamental decision is that the amendment to the Belize Telecommunications Act, by which the government took control of Belize Telemedia Limited has been struck down by the Court of Appeal. It seems to me to be a triumph for the rule of law for the independence of the judiciary. What this signals to one and all is that you may hate Michael Ashcroft, you may hate anybody but you’re still subject to the constitution of this country. You cannot take private property to satisfy some personal grudge that you have with an individual. That has no place in a democracy and the decision of the Court of Appeal gave life to that principle.”

Godfrey Smith, Attorney

Godfrey Smith

“Well, as you might have heard the judge say, the acquisition act and order have been declared unconstitutional, null and void. Null and void means it was never of any effect from the beginning and therefore cannot stand. The obvious effect of that is that the shareholders whose shares were acquired are effectively restored as the legitimate shareholders of BTL.”

Channel 5

#410577 - 06/25/11 09:26 AM Re: Seismic Event: Ashcroft Alliance Re-take Telemedia [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
In a week when government took over the power company, tonight, that is small news because the phone company, Telemedia is back under the control of the Aschroft Alliance. That is the consequence of a judgment handed down at 4:00 pm in the court of appeal. It found that the Government takeover of BTL in august of 2009 was unconstitutional - principally because it did not satisfy the definition of acquisition for a public purpose.

We have the whole story - right up to when former Chairman of the Executive Committee Dean Boyce went back to the company's headquarters on St. Thomas Street to effect the takeover.

But we begin outside the courtroom a few minutes after 4:00. The judgment is 150 pages long but Justice Alleyne only delivered the bottom line: the appeal was allowed and the takeover was unconstitutional. We spoke to the Attorneys for British Caribbean Bank and The Telemedia Employees Trust - both functionaries of the Ashcroft Alliance - outside the courtroom:..

Jules Vasquez
"What is the consequence of what happen in court just now?"

Eamon Courtney, attorney
"Well Jules first of all we have not been able to read the decision as you can imagine its nearly 150 pages but the most fundamental decision is that the amendment to the Belize Telecommunications Act by which the government took control of Belize Telemedia Limited has been struck down by the Court of Appeal. It seems to me to be a triumph for the rule of law for the independence of the judiciary. What this signals to one and all is that you may hate Michael Ashcroft, you may hate anybody but you are still subject to the constitution on this country - you cannot take private property to satisfy some personal grudge that you have with an individual. That has no place in a democracy and the decision of the Court of Appeal gives life to that principle."

Jules Vasquez
"Godfrey does this have the effect of reversing the acquisition/nationalization of BTL and how does that work out in practical term?"

Godfrey Smith, attorney
"Well as you might have heard the judge says that the acquisition act and order have been declared unconstitutional null and void. Null and void means it was never of any effect from the beginning and therefore cannot stand. The obvious effect of that is that the shareholders who shares were required are effectively restored as the legitimate shareholders of BTL."

Jules Vasquez
"From your knowledge of legal strategy will they ask for a leave? Can a stay of execution I should say be asked for in a case such as this?"

Eamon Courtney, attorney
"Well the Prime Minister have indicated that they would appeal, so I would anticipate that he is going to take the case to the Caribbean Court of Justice. In so far as a stay is concern there are formidable obstacles that the government would have to overcome if they were to try to get a stay. I don't know if they are going to do that but it would be a very difficult thing. What they would in effect be asking a court to do is notwithstanding the fact that the law is unconstitutional - they would be asking the court to stay that situation I.E. to maintain an unconstitutional position. I think that is highly unlikely to happen."

Jules Vasquez
"So who will be running BTL on Monday Mr. Smith?"

Godfrey Smith, attorney
"Well if you were to ask me to make a guess I would say Dean Boyce and whoever his management team were will be running BTL on Monday."

Adele Ramos, Reporter
"Will there be a suit for damages or for other financial claims?"

Eamon Courtney, attorney
"I think that's a good question Adele. I think first of all the shareholders and management would have to go back into the company and see what has happen. If in deed there has been any damage suffered by the shareholders then they would have to consider their position."

Jules Vasquez
"Does Mr. Boyce go over to BTL now and eject the present executive chairman, board and whoever from office?"

Godfrey Smith, attorney
"At this very moment I am not sure what Mr. Boyce's plans are. We will need to consult, as you can imagine right after we leave from here and find out what decision he intends to take."

And apparently they didn't need to discuss much - because as they left the courtroom at 4:30 - Dean Boyce and Godfrey Smith, along with former director Phillip Zuniga went straight over to Telemedia's Corporate Headquarters on St. Thomas Street.

They pulled up there around 4:30 - and proceeded to go directly into the lobby, presumably to demand entrance - as the newly restored owners.

They did not have a court order - but no coercion was necessary - after a brief chat with security, they were allowed upstairs - re-taking the company they left in August of 2009, 22 months later. It is as dramatic an event as we have reported on this year - but when we spoke to attorney for Government Lois Young - she was mater-of-fact about the loss.

Lois Young, attorney for Government
"The declarations was granted that the appellants prayed for and I believe that that means that the companies that had BTL before now own it back again so we are back to monopoly status, because the people who own BTL before is the ultimate owner of Speednet so.."

Jules Vasquez
"So now the acquisition is reversed?"

Lois Young, attorney for Government
"That's correct."

Jules Vasquez
"And we can expect Mr. Boyce et al to resume control of BTL?"

Lois Young, attorney for Government
"I have no idea what they are going to do."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you surprise of the outcome?"

Lois Young, attorney for Government
"It's taking a while for it to come down and various thoughts were going through my mind and in the end I was sort of neutral. I had no idea after all that time."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you able to seek a stay of execution or something while the government appeals this?"

Lois Young, attorney for Government
"I'll take some instructions and see what my client has to say."

Jules Vasquez
"But isn't it a matter of some urgency for your client?"

Lois Young, attorney for Government
"I don't know. I don't know what they are going to do; we are going to have a meeting now I am sure and decide what to do."

Her client is the government of Belize and we'll have comment from the prime minister shortly to see what he plans to do. But while they plan - the general staff doesn't know if it's coming or going.

The musical chairs ownership has caused all kinds of psychic chaos at the company this evening with employees uncertain about what lies ahead. And according to reports, Chief Operating Officer Karen Bevans was sent home - we did see her leave at about 5:00 but she told us she was simply asked to stay home until they contact her.

We did speak with Executive Chairman Net Vasquez - who was installed in August of 2009. He left the building when news of the judgement came out. He said, with the acquisition nullified, he simply went home:…

Net Vasquez, Executive Chairman BTL
"Well immediately I decided that it is appropriate for me to leave. I put my files in my briefcase and came home. I thought that was the right thing to do."

PM Dean Barrow
"I was disappointed but not disheartened. This is our system, this is how it works, everybody has a right to go to court and all of us including the government must respect decisions of the court. I haven't haven't have a chance to digest the judgment and so I can't say whether I think the court was legally right or legally wrong. But the fact is it pronounce the decision that it did and unless and until we are able set that aside and have to respect it."

Jules Vasquez
"Now, were you surprise that the takeover or the re-assumption of control was effected immediately?"

PM Dean Barrow
"No I would have expected that from Ashcroft and I had to consider beforehand in the eventuality that we did lose how I will treat with that. Now the judgment was for immediate effect but the order has not yet been shared and so I suppose for technically we could have said 'no we stop you from taking over back until you share the order' but I didn't think that we should play it that way. I thought that in order to signal to the population at large our absolute respect for the decision of the court that we should allow them to as it were move on that decision immediately. I didn't see that there was anything useful to be gain from keeping them at bay. That might have turn ugly, that might have turn nasty, we might have had to use the police and I didn't think that we would gain anything by that."

Jules Vasquez
"So will your government immediately seek to have the effect of the judgment stayed?"

PM Dean Barrow
"The answer to that is that I have to consult with the lawyers. I have to consult with the Cabinet. I would say preliminary yes but not having been able to read the judgment - not having been able to consult properly with governments attorney I don't know what the chances are going to be of successfully obtaining a stay and I want to consult - I want to be sure that we are not going to go on some futile legal effort, I really do need to take proper advice and so I will limit my answer to what I have just said preliminary yes but that can change depending on the legal advice that I get."

Jules Vasquez
"Sir do you accept this as a major and consequential loss for your government both in terms of optics that Ashcroft has won decisively strategically as well. So much effort has been expended - so much money has been out in the legal campaign to retain BTL and now at least for the time being its thrown asunder."

PM Dean Barrow
"It is in what it is. But I optically - it is a setback, for me I hope and believe that people will see to uphold national dignity - to uphold national sovereignty In fact we have come away now with a situation in which the accommodation agreement is gone and that is what triggered the whole thing and so an Ashcroft control BTL will be subject to the PUC, will be subject to competition, will be subject to VOIP. From that point of view is was absolutely worth it to stick up for the fact that there can be no foreigner - nobody at all who can come to this country and proceed in a manner that suggest that that person is bigger than the government and people of the country. The fact that in terms of the narrow issue of control of the company we have lost, as I said its disappointing. It's a setback but I will not allow that to cloud the real issue which is that there is no price too big to pay in terms of standing up for Belizean sovereignty and Belizean dignity."

Jules Vasquez
"It sounds almost like you are satisfied with the state of things. The accommodation agreement having been expunged."

PM Dean Barrow
"Well yes because the accommodation agreement - the consequence of having been expunge are just as I describe a while ago - competition on the local persons with carrier licenses can now be free to offer voice as well as data. We are now totally at liberty to bring in a real Digicell for example or any other telephone company that is prepared to come in and compete. So without a doubt in terms of cheaper rates for real competition and the quality services that that will produce it was worth it without a doubt from that narrow point alone, but I am saying that as well there is the psychological aspect of things - the spiritual aspect if you will, the aspect that has to do national sovereignty and dignity and strength as a people and from that point of view it was worth every penny that we spent, it was worth every battle that we fought and I do make the point that it's not necessarily over yet."

And while the Prime Minister weighs his next decision carefully - it is apparent, he is not going to run to Parliament tomorrow or Monday for that matter and enact a new law re-acquiring the company.

And while days to come will tell what Government will do, and what the Ashcroft Alliance will do now that it's back in charge, Taken on the whole, the impact of this cannot be overstated - and it is a story that will develop well into next week.

Channel 7

#410580 - 06/25/11 09:30 AM Re: Seismic Event: Ashcroft Alliance Re-take Telemedia [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy


Four days after government took over BEL - Tonight the utility landscape is in upheaval again - after the Court of Appeal ruled that the acquisition of BTL was unconstitutional.

And while no one knows what to expect at Telemedia, at BEL antsy consumers want to know if rates are going down. And to some extent, that expectation is based on the much reported fact that BEL owes consumers over 50 million dollars. That's because in 2009 - the PUC ordered a decrease in the electricity rate and BEL got an injunction to block it. Since then, the meter has been running for over two years. So we asked Chairman of the PUC John Avery yesterday, should consumers expect a rebate automatically? He said it's not that simple:

Jules Vasquez
"You cannot say with any certainty that rates is going down because we will get back a rebate for when the reference cost went down and it was not reflected in the rates."

John Avery, Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission
"If you go by that BEL owe consumers a lot of money. Yes BEL owed consumers some money base on that regime. However BEL did not collect all the revenues for certain things that we felt they deserve in 2008 because there was a very drastic reduction in the sale of power. In other words we had a lot of rain, we had this TD16. We had a lot of things that year that resulted in the sale of power being much less than we anticipated. For certain part of the rates, certain part of the revenues that BEL was expected to collect, they didn't collect and so whereas BEL owe consumers base on that regime for cost of power consumers owe BEL for other items. So by the time you net these off and unless we do a rate review I can't say what I would be. It will be less that 10 million Jules. Now when we do another rate review we will look at the investments we've made, we will look at the money we receive and we will determine if maybe you got a little less and a little more than you deserve and we would make an adjustment going forward in the news rates. We have never said that BEL owes people 50 million dollars."

Jules Vasquez
"You had told me that Mr. Chairman."

John Avery, Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission
"This is something that BEL keeps repeating."

Jules Vasquez
"You have said that to me recently in April you said outside the court."

John Avery, Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission
"Outside the courtroom I told you that base on that decision that was made there were certain things but I explain to you that from that time that consumers have certain things and BEL didn't collect certain amount of revenues in areas and so there is no one who can really say who owes who what until we do a review."

Next week, we'll have more from Avery as he discusses that famous statement attributed to Stan Marshall about who smokes what.

But it's fitting that we end tonight talking about utilities because the biggest news of the day - of the week and possibly the year so far has been the re-assumption of control of BRL by the Ashcroft alliance. It is huge news because it was so sudden - between the reading of the judgement and the re-assumption of control, it was effected literally within half an hour - and hardly anyone saw it coming.

But it is in effect tonight and the newly restored Ashcroft - Allied board of directors is meeting at this hour at Telemedia Headquarters. At 5:00 pm, Chief Operating Officer Karen Bevans was sent home and told to wait for further orders while Executive Chairman Net Vasquez left the minute the judgment was handed down. The Prime Minister says government intends to appeal but was at least satisfied that the accommodation agreement - which forced the takeover in the first place - has been set aside.

Importantly, we have learned during this newscast that is not the position of the Ashcroft Alliance. Not unexpectedly they seem to hold that the Accommodation Agreement is still in effect. This will make next week, even more interesting. Whatever happens we'll be there…

Channel 7

#410582 - 06/25/11 09:44 AM Re: Seismic Event: Ashcroft Alliance Re-take Telemedia [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
Supreme Court rules that government takeover of BTL was unconstitutional. Ashcroft attorney lawyer Eamon Courtenay, and Dean Boyce, were shown on tv video clips marching into BTL headquarters to take over the company again.

Barrow tv interviews, sounded like a flustered man, without any plans. Mumbling something about having to contact the lawyers for government guidance on the way, if any, forward. What a mess. I´m glad I did not get to buy any BTL shares from government.

BTL was being managed BETTER under government management than when run by BARON ASHCROFT. The fear, at least my fear, is that BARON ASHCROFT will take back all the improvements made by government management in improving public service. SMART and BTL are now back in the MONOPOLY status under BARON ASHCROFT. The FEAR from the general public seems also to be that BARON ASHCROFT will drive BTL backward into the feudal mode of MINIMAL SERVICES, and MAXIMUM PRICING to squeeze money out of the small society of Belize, in what is a MONOPOLY.

To break the monopoly would require a seperate link to some other fiber optic cable system and any new investor would have to go to the trouble of putting up relay towers around the country. For a company that can show a profit of $15 million to $30 million a year, that is a tough hoe to row.

BARON ASHCROFT system of getting rich in Belize was to keep telecommunications a MONOPOLY, control the only viable outlet, the fiberoptic cable, use imaginative bookkeeping, to not pay taxes and offer only minimal services, particularly internet, which requires a lot of bandwidth, speed and low pricing structure, to bolster and build the economy and grow the GDP. He got very wealthy doing this. The rumbles in the street are saying Dean Boyce better watch his back in this murderous society, with hit men a dime a dozen.

PM Barrow´s reputation of being a superb Constitutional lawyer in the port town, by his sycophants, just blew up in his face. He didn´t make the same mistake though, with BEL. He seized Fortis 70% as a public necessity, for the public good.

If there is any money in cash reserves for BTL, my bet is Boyce will see that disappears over the weekend.

Ray Auxillou

#410583 - 06/25/11 09:45 AM Re: Seismic Event: Ashcroft Alliance Re-take Telemedia [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
from a friend....

The circus gets even bigger. Dean Barrow stated on last night newscast that he expected a ruling in his favor BUT if it was not he would appeal. WELL - the judgement was handed down after 4:00pm when the Court registry closed so he could not file an appeal or ask for an injunction SO Ashcroft's team moved in on the BTL compound and took over shortly before 5:00pm - they installed a new board, sent the "deputy"CEO home and installed their own management team. According to Ashcroft's attorney it will be a steep hill to climb to ask for an injunction or stay of the judgement since the court ruled that the enabling legislation was unconstitutional so Barrow would be in effect asking the court to support an unconstitutional law while the appeal is heard.

#410584 - 06/25/11 09:49 AM Re: Seismic Event: Ashcroft Alliance Re-take Telemedia [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
I for one, would totally be in support of government's control of in
particular, essential services; i.e. - light, water and even

The way things work in Belize however, and Mr. Barrow's nepotist
approach after expropriation was not in the best interest of all
Belizeans. Where is the VoIP as promised? Now he is promising that
he, through PUC will grant that. Too little, too late and probably
not possible without a lengthy and expensive court case. For Lois and
Denys....more money, more money, more money!
Ashcroft is a shrewd businessman, make no mistake. But that is what
businessmen do and are encouraged to be in our capitalist style of

The whole sale victimization and awards to cronies and family that
occurs, in particular under this crowd, is shameful and

If indeed we believe that privatization of these services were wrong,
then there is a proper way about reacquiring. At least try the legal
way first.

A good example is WASA. It was also privatized but later reacquired
by government who now owns 93%.

The government had already acquired BTL from Ashcroft but at the
behest of the people, were forced to beg him back in. They had to
sweeten the pot by offering a guarantee on his investment, very much
the way a bank does. 15% percent was too high but in a monopoly and
with proper oversight, a telecommunications company should realize
that much anyway.

The BEL situation will turn out the same way. Mr. Barrow is not too
concerned since in the process, Denys and Lois will rack up some huge
legal fees. Did you see her response to the news; almost gleeful.
Mr. Barrow is a brilliant individual but way too arrogant for anyone's
good. He is vindictive and dishonest and uses his command of the
language to dazzle his way through treachery. Too bad, as with a
competent cabinet and proper motives, Belize could go far under his
stewardship. As it stands, we go to hell in a wheel- Barrow....and
the band plays on!

G. Michael Reid

#410626 - 06/25/11 07:42 PM Re: Seismic Event: Ashcroft Alliance Re-take Telemedia [Re: Marty]
Katie Valk Offline
GOB took back BTL at midnight last night as Dean Boyce only represents 22% of the shares from the Ashcroft block and needs other stockholders to be present or hand over control of their shares to him for them to take over, which will probably happen early next week. What will be interesting, is what Dean Boyce and GOB did while in control after Fridays decision. I think whatever Dean Boyce did could be nullified, but what GOB do will not be as are legally still in control of the company. Like a chess game now.
Belize based travel specialist

#410648 - 06/26/11 09:56 AM Re: Seismic Event: Ashcroft Alliance Re-take Telemedia [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy
Court of Appeal decision regarding Telemedia

On Friday June 24, 2011 the Belize Court of Appeal ruled that the acquisition of Belize Telemedia
Limited by the Government of Belize, is unconstitutional. As a consequence of
that decision Mr Dean Boyce, one of the successful appellants, went to Telemedia's
headquarters on St Thomas street in Belize City and purported to take back the company.
Government then got immediate legal advice as to the full import and consequence of the
Court of Appeal decision. On the basis of that advice Government concluded that it was
not open, without more, to Mr Boyce to assume control of the company. The Court of Appeal
judgment is declaratory in nature, and by itself does not deprive Government of its de
facto possession of the company. For that to happen the appellant Boyce would have to
go back to court for an enforcement order telling Government to give up possession. Government
thus instructed its appointee, the Executive Chairman and the Telemedia Board,
to continue in command of the company unless presented with a court order specifically
placing the appellant Boyce in control.

Government stresses that in resisting Mr Boyce government is acting strictly in accordance
with the law. In fact It was Boyce and his lawyer who tried to circumvent the court
processes by moving without the specifically required order. And government actually
waited until it could be absolutely sure of its legal ground before it decided to resist Boyce.
Government also makes clear that it will fight any application for an enforcement order,
and that it has several bases on which to do so. Government has also taken steps to appeal
to the CCJ the Friday decision of the Court of Appeal. And regardless of the outcome
of Boyce's application for an enforcement order, the appeal will be carried on.
The Government of Belize is naturally extremely disappointed at the ruling of the Court of
Appeal. It is at a loss to understand how, in all the circumstances, the Court could have
come to its decision, which has the effect of thwarting the will of the Belizean people as
exercised by a sovereign Government. Nevertheless our system of democracy and rule of
law is such that the decision must be respected, even as Government exercises all options
which that very rule of law gives to government.

Government also regrets the uncertainty that the legal developments have caused, especially
to the staff of Telemedia but also to the wider public. But Government will now use
every recourse to preserve the status quo.

Finally, the Government of Belize thanks the Belizean people for what Government is certain
will be the continuing solidarity with, and support for, the entirely just and necessary
struggle against Billionaire arrogance and disrespect for national pride and national sovereignty.

The fight will be carried on and one way or another Belize will prevail.

#410968 - 07/01/11 12:50 AM Re: Seismic Event: Ashcroft Alliance Re-take Telemedia [Re: Marty]
Short Offline
Battle for BTL!

The battle between the Barrow administration and the Ashcroft group for the control of Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) enters a new round with a move by Government to challenge Friday’s bombshell ruling in the Court of Appeals, declaring that the Government acquisition of the phone company back in August 2009 is unconstitutional.

“Whatever we need to do, we will do legally...,” Prime Minister Dean Barrow told Amandala on Monday, insisting that Government will do all in its power to maintain control of the company. “Fix this we will!” he said.

Immediately after the ruling, handed down on Friday evening at 4:00, former executive chairman of BTL, Dean Boyce, went over to BTL to resume the position that he was booted from nearly two years ago, and Net Vasquez, the Government-appointed executive chairman, packed his briefcase and went home.

However, things have made a 180-degree-turn again since Friday evening. Boyce is back out the door. Heavily armed police and guard dogs were posted at BTL’s St. Thomas Street headquarters and Boyce and his attorney, Godfrey Smith, SC, were barred from the compound by police officials. Boyce has since set up what Smith has described on 7 News as “parallel headquarters,” issuing instructions to BTL staff, in defiance of Government’s stance that the status quo at BTL has to remain.

BTL workers are caught in the middle. Boyce issued a press release today with the BTL logo, declaring that Martha Molina has been appointed BTL’s new CEO.

“Any party, including former board members, who persist in squatting on BTL premises and attempting to interfere with the running of the company is acting unlawfully, and the board reserves all its rights to take legal action against those individuals,” said Boyce’s release.

“The public is further advised that former directors led by Mr. Vasquez, including its Chief Operations Officer [Karen Bevans], have NO authority to speak or contract for BTL,” the release further stated.

Barrow told Amandala that he is prepared to give the current BTL directors, appointed by the Government, a written indemnity, in the face of threats by the Ashcroft group that they can get into trouble for continuing in those positions.

Despite Boyce’s warnings, the Government of Belize has taken the hard-line position that unless the Ashcroft team returns with an enforcement order from the Court for Government to hand back the company, the Government of Belize will retain control of the company.

Responding to that position this evening, Eamon Courtenay, SC, attorney for one of the appellants, British Caribbean Bank Limited, told Amandala that no enforcement order is needed, since the Court of Appeal has declared the statutory instrument, appointing new directors of BTL back in August 2009, to be null and void.

“We are preparing the necessary court paper to address the unlawful behavior of former directors of BTL,” said Courtenay, who reported that Government is still not letting Mr. Boyce back into BTL.

The Court of Appeals case was heard in January and June 2011 by Justices Dennis Morrison, Brian Alleyne and Boyd Carey. The central question was whether the government takeover was legitimate: the Court ruled that it was not!

Morrison wrote in the judgment that, “...acquisition of the property was not necessary to achieve the public purposes set out in the Statutory Instruments.”

The appellants had accused the Government of violating section 17(1) of the Belize Constitution, which governs the compulsory taking of property.

Morrison commented that, “It is difficult in examining the Prime Minister’s statement [at the acquisition of BTL], which the Minister deposed contained his reasons, to find a justification for the acquisition in terms of the stated purpose.” “It is a matter of regret to have to say that the statement did single out one individual [Michael Ashcroft] for adverse comment,” wrote Justice Morrison. He added, “...it seems reasonable to find that since the stated purpose is not demonstrated, there must be some other purpose, that not being legitimate.”

Prime Minister Barrow told our newspaper that Government did not expect the Court of Appeal ruling and will fight it in the higher court – the Caribbean Court of Justice. Barrow said that at this moment, Government cannot disclose exactly what it will do to maintain control of BTL.

“As long as they do not go for an enforcement order, they can’t touch the company,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the Government is moving to appeal the decision at the level of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

He also said that the third parties who had bought shares in BTL will have the right to be represented in any such proceedings for an enforcement order, which would lead to a drawn out fight. This would mean that GOB would “have room within which to maneuver,” and the Ashcroft group would not be immediately able to take control of BTL.

Barrow said that he had gotten legal advice from Senior Counsel Lois Young, who left Belize to represent Government at the Privy Council, which still has a few outstanding cases from Belize, Legal Advisor Gian Ghandi and two international lawyers he declined to name at this time.

In regards to those Belizeans who had purchased some of the shares formerly held by the Ashcroft group from the Government, Barrow said that he hopes those persons would continue to hold those shares, as even an enforcement order from the Court of Appeal would not necessarily mean that the shares would have to be returned to the Ashcroft group.

Barrow said that the Government would be making the case to the Court of Appeal that in the circumstances—if the CCJ upholds the ruling that the BTL acquisition was unconstitutional—it is better to pay the former shareholders damages in addition to the requisite compensation.

What would be the extent of those damages? We asked Barrow if he could hazard a guess. He said that to date, the Government of Belize has collected about $18 million in dividends from the BTL shares and damages may amount to this figure plus a little bit more, with a rate of return.

Persons who had bought shares in BTL from the Government, said Barrow, can ask for their monies back if they wish, because the funds have been held in escrow at the Central Bank. He suggested, however, that shareholders wait before asking for their money back, because, he assured, “I am saying we will fix this.”

As for the SSB’s $50 million investment in BTL, Barrow said that the board is unlikely to take a decision on that matter in the days ahead, because Young, SSB’s chairman, will be out of the country at the Privy Council.

Barrow said that BTL’s staff is firmly behind the government after reports Friday evening that Boyce has a plan to release between 50 and 100 workers from BTL.

Attorney for BCB, Courtenay, told Amandala on Friday that they may also pursue claims for damages against the Government of Belize.

“I think first of all the shareholders and management would have to go back into the company and to see what has happened. If indeed there has been any damage suffered by the shareholders, then they would have to consider their position,” said Courtenay.

Attorneys Eamon Courtenay, SC, and Ashanti Arthurs-Marin appeared for the British Caribbean Bank Limited; Godfrey Smith, SC, and Magali Marin-Young for the appellant Dean C. Boyce. Ms. Lois Young, SC and Nigel Hawke appeared for the respondents in both appeals.

Courtenay said that he hopes the Court of Appeal would hear the matter of any enforcement order speedily. The three judges, he said, are out of the jurisdiction and Government will have to facilitate their return.

“We will see if Government will use its power to frustrate the effort of the litigant to get a fair hearing,” said Eamon Courtenay, the attorney for British Caribbean Bank, a member of the Ashcroft group.

In a statement issued today, Government said that it “...regrets the uncertainty that the legal developments have caused, especially to the staff of Telemedia, but also to the wider public. But Government will now use every recourse to preserve the status quo.”

Live and let live

#410969 - 07/01/11 12:55 AM Re: Seismic Event: Ashcroft Alliance Re-take Telemedia [Re: Short]
Short Offline
Dictator Dean…defies Court Appeal Judges

Belize City, June 29, 2011

The Barrow Administration is under heavy fire at home and abroad, accused of displaying ultimate disrespect for the fundamentals of our democracy – the Judiciary and the rule of law. Imitating characteristics of a dictator, Prime Minister Dean O. Barrow ordered and gripped the forced re-taking of a telecommunications company despite a Court ruling which declared Government’s 2009 acquisition as illegal and unconstitutional.

On Friday June 24th, the Court of Appeal, which was asked to review a Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Barrow Administration’s August 2009 acquisition of Belize Telemedia Limited, declared the Government’s action as unconstitutional and the acquisition as null and void.

“It is hereby declared that the Acquisition Act and Orders are inconsistent with the Constitution and are unlawful, null and void,” is what Justice Morrison declared in his substantive statement. In another portion of the 149-page ruling, Morrison shatters the central force behind the Barrow Administration’s takeover, when he declared, “contrary to what the judge [Justice Oswell Legall, Supreme Court] found, the evidence does not support the view that the compulsory acquisitions were duly carried out for the stated public purpose.” This position was supported by the two other Judges Justice Boyd Carey and Justice Brian Alleyne.

The Court of Appeal is the highest Court and final Appellate Court in Belize. The decision immediately set pace for the previous majority shareholders of BTL to regain ownership of the company, and they did. Former BTL Chairman Dean Boyce and former board director Phillip Zuniga made their way to the BTL compound to meet with the staff. The Government-appointed Chairman Nestor Vasquez left the building upon hearing the Court’s ruling, because as he said, “it was the right thing to do”.

Following the announcement of the ruling Prime Minister Dean O. Barrow, who initially recognised that the Courts are far more powerful than he is, pledged that he would respect the Court’s decision and the rule of law.

“This is our system, this is how it works, everybody has a right to go to Court and all of us including the Government must respect decisions of the Court. Now the judgment was for immediate effect but the order has not yet been shared and so I suppose technically we could have said ‘no, we stop you from taking over back until you share the order’, but I didn’t think that we should play it that way. I thought that in order to signal to the population at large our absolute respect for the decision of the Court that we should allow them to, as it were, move on that decision immediately. I didn’t see that there was anything useful to be gained from keeping them at bay. That might have turned ugly, that might have turned nasty, we might have had to use the police and I didn’t think that we would gain anything by that,” stated the Prime Minister during a phone interview on national television.

But a few hours after appearing humbled, the Prime Minister had a changed his, turning rabid and disrespectful. On his orders, an army of Police, Belize Defense Force soldiers and K9 dogs marched to and surrounded BTL’s headquarters on St. Thomas Street, closing its gate and only letting in Government representatives into the compound. What exactly was the purpose of the Police takeover while Government agents searched for files inside the building is anyone’s guess? There are rampant allegations of UDP cronies hustling while Government was in charge of BTL’s treasure chest. It is also public knowledge that through BTL Barrow’s close friends and family such as his ex-wife and son benefitted immensely. It would come to no one’s surprise that all possible proof of hustling and reckless spending has been destroyed by now.

Barrow has defended his re-taking with a technical matter; that a declaratory order explicitly instructing the Government to vacate what the Court said was taken illegally in the first place, was never issued. But lawyers including Hubert Elrington, a former attorney general and the brother of Barrow’s foreign minister, say that the Government is acting very out of line, and is even displaying a serious contempt of the Court, because the judgment itself indicates Government’s ownership was null and void from the very beginning.

Using the state police, the Barrow Administration has constantly intimidated everything and everyone possible in Belize. This recent incident is the clearest evidence that Barrow believes he answers to no one and is above the law – he is now a Dictator.

While claiming that the BTL takeover is a nationalist move to benefit Belizeans, Barrow has nothing to show that under his management BTL became more Belizean-friendly. The much-anticipated Voice-Over Internet was never offered, and rates were never lowered.

Now that his administration has been shot down by the Court of Appeal, Barrow will do what he knows best. On Monday he will use the House of Representatives in another attempt to abuse the power given to him by the people of Belize, and force another piece of legislation to re-take Belize Telemedia Limited.

Live and let live

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