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#411728 - 07/14/11 07:11 AM Land fraud reloaded: North Ambergris
Marty Offline
And tonight we have another case of land fraud to report - but this time it's not one more bogus conveyance, it's the land registry system that seems to have been compromised.

Back in the mid 80's William And Jimmy Quinto bought two acres of land on Northern Ambergris Caye for six thousand dollars. The land was originally owned by Francisco Nunez who sold it to Dennis Smith - who then sold it to the Quinto's.

But something around 2006 things started to get muddled. Without the Quinto's knowing - a land certificate for the same block of land was regained by Francisco Nunez and sold to his son Alex

The Quinto's didn't find out anything until April of this year when that land was put up for auction and a public notice went out in the Amandala. It seems Alex Nunez had used his land certificate to secure a loan and defaulted on the loan.

But how did he even have a certificate - when the Quinto's bought the land decades earlier and had their own Certificate?

That's what we asked their Attorney Fred Lumor...

Fred Lumor - Attorney for the Quintos
"In 2006, for some unexplained reasons, Mr. Francisco Nunez - a property that 21 years ago, he managed to get the Lands Department to register him as the owner of this parcel of land. And I don't know how it happened. The Land Registry registered him as owner of this property, and issued him with a new lands certificate on first registration. Having that obtained that land certificate, 12 days after, he transferred this property to his son, Alex Nunez, for $5,000. The registrarer increased it to $10,000, and then Alex Nunez was registered as owner. Having obtained land certificate, Alex Nunez approached the Belize Bank, obtained a loan of $80,000 with interest over 15%, and then obtained another line of credit - over $41,000 in addition to the $80,000, defaulted on all the loans. The monies were not used to develop the land. The land is a vacant lot, no development on it. And the Quintos discovered that they were victims of fraud, when they saw in the Amandala Newspaper, the Belize Bank advertised the property for sale in April of this year. And that stated that the owner is Alex Nunez."

Jules Vasquez
"I see here, when your clients the Quintos, went for first registration in 2009, it said that the current proprietor is unknown, not registered. However, we have seen another document, now from 2011, which showed that an owner was registered as far back as 2006. How could this be? It indicates that, perhaps, - the register was perhaps unlawfully altered, or made to not reflect the true status of things."

Fred Lumor
"This is a primary and fundamental flaw, in the Land Registration System, which was meant to be done scrupulously, to protect the investment that people are making prompting the banks. Somebody needs to go into the Land Registry and find out what actually is going on there. This is very alarming, very very alarming."

Jules Vasquez
"From your review of the events, would you conclude that someone acted corruptly, or improperly?"

Fred Lumor
"This thing could not have occurred - this thing occured with conivance and collusion in the Lands Department. The syndicate in the Lands Department that is facilitating these things, somebody needs to find out because whether the Government likes it or not, the Government will be exposed to large claims of damages, so long as these types of transactions continue."

Jules Vasquez
"So then, what would be your warning to land-owners out there?"

Fred Lumor
"Please, if you have land certificates, do hold unto it in your closet or your safe at the safety deposit box - somewhere - going about under the illusion that you're are the owner. Every year at least, please go to the Lands Registry, check the Land Register, and check whether that somebody is registered as owner of your property, because the land certificate alone does not protect you anymore. Please, periodically, check the Land Register to verify whether you own your own property."

Lumour and the Quinto's are presently in court against the Belize Bank, Francisco and Alex Nunez, the Attorney General and the Registrar of Lands.

In the matter with the bank, the court will determine if the title was gained by fraud.

Channel 7

#411738 - 07/14/11 10:08 AM Re: Land fraud reloaded: North Ambergris [Re: Marty]
Fishmonger Offline
I was thinking about buying property in Belize.
These stories have changed my mind. I will just rent.
I am sure no sane person would consider investing in Belize if these practices are a daily occurrence.

#411739 - 07/14/11 10:25 AM Re: Land fraud reloaded: North Ambergris [Re: Fishmonger]
bywarren Offline
Fortunately, being sane is not a prerequisite for investing in Belize.

#411740 - 07/14/11 10:37 AM Re: Land fraud reloaded: North Ambergris [Re: Marty]
Phil Offline
You won't get far in life if you don't do something just because you read of one issue in a field you are considering entering. Enter informed and with your eyes open and toughen up a bit. Renting first is always a good idea to see if Belize suits you and you suit her.

#411741 - 07/14/11 10:38 AM Re: Land fraud reloaded: North Ambergris [Re: Marty]
Diane Campbell Offline
Fishmonger - these things are not a daily occurrence at all.
Work with a reputable broker and you will be fine.
Or rent and take your time.
Either way, enjoy your stay on the island !

#411742 - 07/14/11 10:41 AM Re: Land fraud reloaded: North Ambergris [Re: Fishmonger]
Bear Offline
I think you may overreacting a bit FM, Bz is one of the easiest & safest places to purchase. It was my experience that as a buyer all the appropriate and necessary steps were taken to assure me as a buyer the proeprty was free of issues. I wouldnt let it stop me one bit...I mean if youwant to talk about fraud take a look at the loan processing that got the US in trouble, or buy in Mexico...ooops Govt wants your property..gone boy!

#411747 - 07/14/11 10:47 AM Re: Land fraud reloaded: North Ambergris [Re: Bear]
bywarren Offline
OK, here I go probably pissing off many of my Belize friends, but seriously, if two people as well informed on purchasing property in Belze as Rosella Zabaneh and Pi Marin can be defrauded, it is not a good sign for the credibility of Belize.
It does reinforce that anyone considering purchasing should deal with a reputable agent and use an attorney.

PS: And, I took my own advice and did both of that and still encountered problems with my purchase, so I speak with some personal knowledge.

Edited by bywarren (07/14/11 10:53 AM)

#411749 - 07/14/11 10:53 AM Re: Land fraud reloaded: North Ambergris [Re: Marty]
Diane Campbell Offline
FM - I think you may have exhausted the usefulness of the internet in your research on Belize. The internet is not a substitute for real life experience.

Example - go ahead and spend the next 10 years researching chocolate on the internet. You can be an expert on the price, the chemical composition, the history, the politics --- but not one bit of that will tell you what it tastes like ----
You still need to actually take a bite of the real thing to know about the taste - and the TASTE is why people want it in the first place.

PS - Regardless of the Zabeneh thing, of course you should hire a pro.

#411759 - 07/14/11 12:59 PM Re: Land fraud reloaded: North Ambergris [Re: Diane Campbell]
future-expat Offline
So are you saying that some one should just ignore the multiple stories of recent land fraud and buy anyway? That would be supremely stupid, and no investor worth their salt is going to take that risk. At best if this continues to make headlines, you'll continue to get shady businessmen and women who are looking to exploit the corruption, making things worse than they are already. If there is a fraud problem in the Lands Dept (and its really starting to look like there is) it needs to be addressed. You can overlook the exploitation of foreigners, like most people do here, but its not going to go for much longer before the market here is ruined for the next five years or so. I say this as a person that loves it here and takes my "gringo discount" in stride. You can nickel and dime people all day and they'll overlook it, but start screwing with real money and investors will flee.

#411763 - 07/14/11 01:29 PM Re: Land fraud reloaded: North Ambergris [Re: Marty]
PROBUS Offline
Bywarren is correct. Perhaps a safe way to buy is to get a mortgage from a Belizean bank. They will only lend one they have ensured there is sound title. Employing a realtor/lawyer/agent is only safe if they have PI insurance (arranged with a reputable international insurer) that you KNOW you will be able to claim against, perhaps decades down the track.

I hope that Francisco Nunez gets what he deserves, which is not a plot of land on AC.

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