New claims challenge GOB on 2011 nationalization of BTL
The Barrow administration has recently signed into law the Eighth Amendment to the Belize Constitution, which, it has said, would put the 2011 re-nationalization of Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) beyond legal dispute.
However, Amandala has confirmed from Lois Young, SC, attorney for BTL who also does legal work for the government, that the former shareholders have challenged the 2011 reacquisition of BTL and the government was served last week, on Tuesday, October 25, the same day that the Government won its case over the 8th (formerly the 9th Amendment) Amendment.
The claims were filed by former chairman of BTL’s executive committee, Dean Boyce, as well BCB Holdings.
Additionally, indications to our newspaper are that the question of compensation for the Ashcroft group, the former majority shareholder of BTL would have to be settled in the courtroom.
As we reported last week, there is a substantial disagreement between the two parties over the value of the 95% shareholding which the Government of Belize had expropriated from the former shareholders in 2009, in a nationalization ruled unconstitutional by the court.
Earlier this year, immediately after the ruling of unconstitutionality, Ashcroft got back BTL for a few hours before the Government took control again, asserting that no order had been explicitly given by the court to hand back the company to them.
Government undertook a second nationalization move in 2011, in an attempt to correct what the court had deemed as missteps in the 2009 nationalization.
The Government has revealed that a share evaluation done by NERA Consulting has put the share value at the time of nationalization in August 2009 as low as BZ$1.44 a share; but the Ashcroft group, we were told, had asked a compensation of BZ$10 a share—that’s more than a sixfold difference.
Apart from the litigation that is very likely to ensue in this dispute over compensation, there is a pending case over the nationalization of 2009 before the Caribbean Court of Justice. Whereas the government still contends that the 2009 nationalization was legal, the former shareholders, who had won in the Court of Appeal, insist that the acquisition was unconstitutional.
No date has been set for either the CCJ hearing or the hearing of the new claims challenging the 2011 nationalization.
The case to settle compensation which had been filed pursuant to the 2009 acquisition has been discontinued, because of the second nationalization.
Young told us that two weeks ago, government responded to the claims made by the Ashcroft group; however, they had not written to say whether they would accept the NERA valuation or not.
As for arbitration pursued by Dunkeld, a member of the Ashcroft group, under the UK-Belize bilateral investment treaty, which began shortly after the 2009 nationalization, that has been frozen by the Court of Appeal and the parties are now awaiting a decision from that court on whether the interim injunction to stop the BCB from arbitrating the matter is binding on Dunkeld. Amandala