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."
"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."
"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."
"From your review of the events, would you conclude that someone acted corruptly, or improperly?"
"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."
"So then, what would be your warning to land-owners out there?"
"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.