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#426853 - 01/06/12 02:42 AM Port of Belize goes into receivership
Marty Offline
“It was an action that was expected from November of 2011, that the Belize
Bank would take over the Port of Belize Limited from its owner, Luke Espat.
It happened this morning when members of the Police Department showed up
shortly after seven to occupy the property. Not long after, the new
manager, Arturo Vasquez, appointed as the receiver for the Belize Bank,
entered the compound and took over from the Port’s Chief Executive Officer,
Reyneldo Guerrero. Next to arrive were the President of the Christian
Workers’ Union, Antonio Gonzalez, and his Secretary General, James McFoy.
They explained to the media that they were there to protect the interests
of the over 150 of their members, who are staffers and stevedores.

Antonio Gonzalez - President, CWU
“It doesn’t matter who we are dealing with, the Christian Workers Union
priority and firm position is to look after the interest of our members and
employees, to safeguard their work position, that is our primary factor in
any situation. Whether it is Ashcroft, whosoever.”


James McFoy - Sec. Gen. CWU
“If anything should change the union will be a part of any changes that
comes about and that is the assurance and the letter that they will be
giving us is stating that yes, things remain the same and a meeting will be
held later to discuss further into what will be the outcome of the Port.
The Deputy CEO is supposed to be in the office because the Deputy CEO is
not terminated, only the CEO which Mr. Vasquez took his place.”

Next to arrive was Arthur Saldivar, attorney for Luke Espat. He said that
this letter which came from the new Manager, Arturo Vasquez, is illegal.

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney for Luke Espat
“The document that is being used is not legally recognized, it cannot be
legally recognized unless the port sanctions it, there is no port sanction
for it. The only sanction that is given is by the political authority, the
political authority has enabled this to take place. It begs the question of
the relationship between the Ashcroft Alliance for which this company that
is acting under this false document is doing and the present political
directorate that we have in the country.”

Espat himself also appeared on the compound, and, after a few minutes
inside and on the porch, left, but not before inviting reporters in the
yard to give his perspective. He said that all he is asking for is a
court-appointed receiver.

Luke Espat, Investor, Port of Belize Ltd.
“The police have assisted the breachment of a security area with what you
would call a receivership document presented by some of our creditors.
This was done and was able to happen only because of the assistance of the
Police of which I am respecting but technically it should have been an
official court order of which they don’t want to do because they know this
is a typical, the epiphany of a white color crime that is being committed
here today.”

Jules Vasquez – Channel 7
How so, you feel the port is being stolen from you?

Luke Espat - Investor, Port of Belize Ltd.
“It technically is, literally. The port is current with its obligation;
the port had other interest with other investments surrounding the cruise
terminal of which the parties involved are some of the creditors. There
were other arrangements made as far back as the end of 2009 which they have
seen not to honourr because of special interest. Of course all this will
come out in time.”

Before Espat left the compound, he said that he would be going to the
court, presumably to get the courts involved in what has transpired. He
also made it clear that he wants back his Port.

Luke Espat - Investor, Port of Belize Ltd.
“I made it clear to my CEO that the police will have to stay here because
the day they move I will be taking back my business.”

This afternoon the Port of Belize issued a press release formalizing
Vasquez’ appointment as Receiver and Manager of the Port and that he has
assumed control and management of the business and assets of the Belize
Ports Limited and the Port of Belize Limited. The release states that the
Port remains open for business and that the Receiver is committed to manage
the business without any disruption of services to the public. It closes
off by stating that Vasquez has met with the management, employees and
relevant parties to assure them of the Port’s continued operations.

LOVEFM

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#426884 - 01/06/12 02:30 PM Re: Port of Belize goes into receivership [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Belize Bank takes over Port of Belize Limited


Port of Belize

The news spread quickly early this morning that the takeover of the Port of Belize Limited was going down today. And true to those rumors, by the start of the business day the facility which employs hundreds of people and is in charge of the nation’s major sea ports had been taken over by the Belize Bank. Love TV’s Marion Ali and cameraman Brian Castillo had the early assignment today and bring you the story in the following report.

On its website, the Port of Belize reported that last December, it paid out a quarter of a million dollars to employees in yearly bonuses. This afternoon the Port of Belize issued a press release formalizing Vasquez’ appointment as Receiver and Manager of the Port and that he has assumed control and management of the business and assets of the Belize Ports Limited and the Port of Belize Limited. The release states that the Port remains open for business and that the Receiver is committed to manage the business without any disruption of services to the public. It closes off by stating that Vasquez has met with the management, employees and relevant parties to assure them of the Port’s continued operations.

LOVETV


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#426885 - 01/06/12 02:31 PM Re: Port of Belize goes into receivership [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Ashcroft Alliance Takes Over Port Of Belize

The Port of Belize is under new management and control tonight - after the Ashcroft Alliance swept in and took it over today. As we've been reporting, the rancor between the Port of Belize Limited and its creditor, a company called Private Investment Limited which is part of the Ashcroft Alliance, had been building for months - and it finally came to a head today - when the Alliance took over Belize's main port.

Now, the Alliance has tried to inspect the Port ownership at least twice before - but they were blocked by security both times. Today, though, they came prepared - with a powerful detachment of police. 7News was first on the scene and Jules Vasquez reports:..

Jules Vasquez reporting
When we got on the scene at 8:01 am, the police had already taken control of the main gate - it was taken, we gather, without resistance. A convoy of vehicles related to the receiver were already queuing up at the second barrier

And police had already rolled into the heart of the compound - with Superintendent Alford Grinage coordinating the takeover. Present Port senior staffs were immediately enlisted and occupation of the main office was effected without resistance within under five minutes.

The police guarded the bridge and the container area while the receiver appointed executives had the only cars parked in the driveway there were as many as 16 uniformed and plain clothed police with Superintendent Grinage giving out strict instructions to secure and control all gates and entrances the mast of the country's sovereign Port, secured by police within 13 minutes - business as usual was restored - and container trucks started passing into the port and employees were allowed in Attorney Carlo Mason showed up followed by Vanessa Retriege - both of WH Courtenay and Company - but they were not allowed in.

Carlo Mason, Attorney
"I will not be allowed in?"

Sgt, Zuniga
"I will get a document to you right now."

Carlo Mason, Attorney
"You'll get a document to me? Okay."

Ashton Longsworth of Godfrey Smith's Law Practice gave them that document. Though they didn't want us looking over their shoulder and huffed away to read it - we got our own copy and here's what it says.

It gives notice of the appointment of a receiver, Arturo Vasquez and says that yesterday he was appointed by Private Investment Limited, a company with it's office at 60 Market Square - the same address as the Belize Bank is the receiver and manager of all the property, assets and undertaking of the Belize Ports Limited, further to a mortgage debenture and mortgage deed both dated 9th April 2010.

The attorneys discussed this letter with Franzine Waight, the Deputy CEO while that was happening, business as usual continued at the Port. Former Ports Commissioner Lloyd Jones seemed to be the man in charge on the ground and By 9:00a.m., the men in charge of the workers came to talk to the new bosses.

Antonio Gonzalez - President CWU
"We learned about this situation this morning and we are responding to it being the union responsible and representing the workers at the Port of Belize Ltd. At this we are unaware of who took over; we know it's the bank but the current situation we don't know. We will ask for a meeting with the persons concern and thereafter we can tell you more. But at this stage we want to know what is happening just like you. We learned about this this morning."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you concern that it will affect your stevedores?"

James McFoy, General Secretary, CWU
"That is our concern."

Antonio Gonzalez
"The concern is that as representative of the workers here we are concern about the after effects. Any repercussions we will stand firm and protect our interest of our members."

They went into that meeting, but Rey David Geurrero - son of CEO Rainaldo Geurrero and senior Port Employee was not allowed to move freely on the compound though he argued his case with Ashton Longsworth - it was futile

But for the union reps it was not futile they were out in half an hour

Antonio Gonzalez - President CWU
"As explain we met with Mr. Arturo Vasquez who is the person in charge right now and from the discussion we understand that he will be taking over Mr. Guererro's place as CEO. But that we were assured by him that there will be no disruption of normal operations or any situation that will affect the status quo of our members and employees at this stage. Meaning that normal conditions will remain and continue until we meet and discuss further situation. Changes he said might come down the line but whatever changes or whatever things they have in mind the union will be a part of that discussion and as such we reiterated and stood firm that we were looking after the interest of our employees and members and at this stage we want to disruptions."

James McFoy, General Secretary, CWU
"They themselves do not want any kind of disruption. In other words, they don't want the stevedores to feel jumpy about the whole situation. So in terms of that they might be asking to see that things remain as normal, calm."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you all concern that you are now dealing essentially with the Ashcroft Alliance or in your mind it's just one owner to the next?"

Antonio Gonzalez
"It doesn't matter who we are dealing with. The Christian Workers Union priority and firm position is to look after the interest of our members and employees to safeguard their work situation but at the same time we need to say that the union will be on this issue for the better interest of the our members. We will defend their interest whatsoever."

Jules Vasquez
"Let say the next management is re-installed would you then have a concern that we have shown loyalty with this Arturo Vasquez group?"

Antonio Gonzalez
"Jules as we said this is not loyalty to any entity. This is loyalty to our members, to the persons who are employed by the Port of Belize Ltd."

James McFoy
"We work as partner so that the operation can be successful and that is our aim and objective. So that if whosoever is management, as long as you don't mash our "corn" we will work with you. So if they mash our "corn" then you will see a difference and that is it."

And next to appear on the scene was attorney Arthur Saldivar - he strutted impressively in front of the office, but was not allowed in and then strutted on over to us to tell us he appeared for Luke Espat and the Port of Belize.

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney
"Certainly what's going on in there is totally illegal. There is no basis for the action that has been taken at this time. I met with Mr. Vasquez already and he gave me a piece of paper that's not worth anything. I don't want to tell you where he can put that paper. Tux Vasquez through his own authority without no legal standing have entered into a state of illegality to occupy an office within the Port of Belize and have insisted that he has now the authority and control the company. But this is signed by Arturo Vasquez. If you can see any stamp form the Supreme Court you tell me. If this is what the laws of Belize have come to that a man can purport to be something and be given legal authority to take over an establishment with no legal basis, Lord, what have we come to? What have our laws come to?"

Jules Vasquez
"Possession is nine tents on the law. This group PIL has enforced possession of the compound."

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney
"They have enforced nothing. What they have done is brought the police force to occupy illegally something that it not theirs. As soon as the police leave it will go back to its rightful owner."

Jules Vasquez
"Will your client re-takes control of this company of this compound?"

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney
"We are not leaving the compound. We will maintain our presence and occupation and regain control as soon as Mr. Barrow calls off his dogs."

Jules Vasquez
"Let's clear this up, you are a guest here, they let you."

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney
"We have a right to be here."

Jules Vasquez
"Yes but I am saying they let you in and these same police officers can also eject you. They let in Rainaldo Geurrero."

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney
"They cannot eject me? On what basis can they eject me?"

Jules Vasquez
"Who is in the CEO's office, Tux Vasquez."

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney
"Listen to me, if we are going to accept tyranny and call tyranny a part of the law of Belize then might as well you lock up shop and leave your office at Albert Street because at any time someone could come there purporting to have legal authority and remove you."

Jules Vasquez
"This is not as simple as that. These people have commercial banking arrangements."

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney
"There is no commercial banking arrangement. This is what I am trying to explain to you. The issue is one where a group of persons acting for PIL which is a member of the Ashcroft Group of companies have sought to illegally occupy this entity known as the Port of Belize without any cover of law."

Shortly after, we saw Espat's Prado in the parking lot and then we saw him leaving - accompanied by Saldivar.

Then he went back on the verandah, and seemed to be barking some instruction at superintendent Grinage - who seemed to be paying him no mind and then Grinage turned the tables and laid down the law and when Espat fired back, he had to talk to the officers back.

And when he went back to the door, two female officers held it. Espar retreated calmly had a discussion with Geuerrero Jr and Saldivar and waved confidently to the press then drove out and signaled for us to meet him at the first gate.

Where he had to cajole the security - telling them he was still their boss - to let us into the compound.

Torn, the security did open the gate - even as police - was telling us to move.

Jules Vasquez
"Luke what's the status right now?"

Luke Espat, Titular Owner, Port of Belize
"What has happen this morning is as you have seen the police have assisted the breachment of a security area with a receivership document presented by some of our creditors. This was done and was able to happen only because of the assistance of the police of which I am respecting. But technically it should have been an official court order of which they don't want to do because they know this is typical epiphany of a white collar crime that being committed here today."

Jules Vasquez
"How so? You feel the Port is being stolen from you?"

Luke Espat
"It technically is, literally. The Port is current with its obligations. The Port had other interest with other investments surrounding the cruise terminal of which the parties involved are some of the creditors. There were other arrangements made as far back as the end of 2009 which they have seen not to honor because of other special interests. Of course all this will come out in time."

Jules Vasquez
"But I understand that you went in there in the board room just now threw a fit and were ejected. This is what I was made to understand."

Luke Espat
"I threw no fit. I made it clear to my CEO that the police will have to stay here because the day they move I am taking back my business. So it is as clear as that."

Jules Vasquez
"On what legal basis? A receiver has been appointed and he has activated possession."

Luke Espat
"Go to the court. I want a court appointed receiver. That is all I am asking."

Jules Vasquez
"But aren't there provisions in the original commercial arrangement with PIL that enable the appointment of a receiver?"

Luke Espat
"That is a questionable matter to be debated in the court. I am no attorney, let the judge decide that."

Jules Vasquez
"But now Luke how has it all come to this? You were just ejected from the head office of your Port."

Luke Espat
"I wasn't, I came out."

Jules Vasquez
"But I saw you arguing outside with Mr. Grinage."

Luke Espat
"I was discussing with the officer to where to make camp for his police."

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney
"There was no breach of the peace to have warranted police `presence here today. The only breach of the peace that has taken place here now is that the legal and rightful authority to be running this Port has now been replaced illegally by this Ashcroft Alliance with the help of the Belize Police Department."

Luke Espat
"This of course will continue its path through the courts. It will get into a lengthy litigation process to which I know the people that we will be up against are professionals in this field. You have seen what they have done with government and the previous administration. But I am sure that we have all goodies to take care of our affairs with them and we will get back our business and secondly as long as the police force is not here, I'll be back."

Jules Vaquez
"As the titular owner of the Port will you be seeking the intersession of the government of Belize? Will you be seeking and audience with the Prime Minister?"

Luke Espat
"I see no use in that. I have informed the Prime Minister this morning that he was helpful in allowing rogues to steal my business. He said his police force was only here to keep the peace as far as he knows and I inform the senior officer of this."

Jules Vaquez
"Do you feel any grievance or enmity against your former friend or you told me he was your friend Mr. Ashcroft?"

Luke Espat
"Of course not."

Jules Vaquez
"But he is the moving hand presumably behind all this."

Luke Espat
"There is an old saying that God bless those who suffer fools and he has a new company by the name of Waterloo. I definitely won't be Napoleon."

And while he lives to fight another day, - according to bank documents 7news has obtained - Espat may have already faced his Waterloo - at least with his creditors.

A letter dated yesterday from the British Caribbean Bank to the Port of Belize and signed by Andrew Ashcroft - the son of Michael Ashcroft - discusses a thirty eight million US dollar credit facility with the Bank - that is 76 million Belize dollars. It refers to events of default and warns of noncompliance by the Borrowers which is the Port of Belize and related parties. There's also a letter dated third January from the inscrutable Private Investment Limited, addressed to the Port of Belize about the Luke Espat Group.

It makes it clear that, quote "no settlement agreement was ever reached…." It also discusses the loan and security arrangements and says that quote "there is no basis whatsoever for any suggestion that you have somehow been disadvantaged by its terms."

It concludes by telling Espat he has failed to pay interest on the loan - and that the outstanding interest stands at 3.7 million Belize dollars.

It says that they are willing to discuss a resolution, but the Espat group first has to pay its interest. This conflicts squarely with Espat's version, in which he says he is current with all payments.

For the Luke Espat Group, the Port is the very last jewel in its tattered corporate crown. All his companies and ventures: Indeco, Crocland, The Renaissance Towers and now the Port have been lost to receives and taken over by the bank.

Reliable reports say that at its peak the Luke Espat Group's entire debt portfolio represented a cumulative debt of close to 200 million Belize dollars.

Channel 7


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#426886 - 01/06/12 02:32 PM Re: Port of Belize goes into receivership [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Receiver Says Port Must Be Kept As "Going Concern"

But from our read of the letter from Private Investment Limited, it all came down to 3.7 million dollars in interest that PIL claims the Luke Espat Group failed to pay on the loan.

We quote from that letter, it says: "the key point is that you have failed to comply with the terms, in particular by failing to pay interest on the loan."

And so, with that the creditors acted on a mortgage debenture and appointed a receiver who took over this morning. This evening, the receiver - who is now the CEO, Arturo Tux Vasquez - held a press conference.

At his side was the Deputy CEO Franzine Waight who decided to stay on and Major Lloyd Jones, a former Ports Commissioner who has been brought in as a Technical Advisor to the receivership. He is not the Operations Officer as we had been told earlier. Vasquez told the press that the transition has been, in a word, perfect:

Marion Ali, Love News
"This is day one for you. How have the workers received you?"

Arturo Tux Vasquez
"Perfectly, as you can see the deputy CEO is here, she is in her post and she is doing what she has to do. She sign cheques today, she may have to sign some more until we have the transition over. I am trying my best not to have any disruption to what was here before."

Jules Vasquez
"Is this a legal occupation? And if so what law underpins it? What legal document underpins it?"

Arturo Tux Vasquez
"I won't sit here and be an attorney because I am not. I am appointed on an instrument whereby it defers to two debentures that were sign. The debentures from what I understand is allows the lender to install a receiver. Legally, I really can't take it any further than that. I am acting on this instruction given to me by our legal advice. Now if that position may or may not be correct whatever it is I will also have to respect that. In regards to the police, the police have been here all the time and they made it very clear to all parties that they are only here for a national interest and to make sure that there is no disruption in the service."

Marion Ali
"The police will remain for how long?"

Arturo Tux Vasquez
"The police is here mainly because it's a national interest. It's a port and they are here to make sure that the disruption does not happen and if there is any confrontation the law is present and I think that is very important. They are not here to protect anybody as such; they are here to make sure the national port of this country does not fall out of whack. The senior management that are in there with respective positions continue to do their jobs. I have not taken responsibility of anybody's position. Accountants still deal with the banks, the deputy CEO still deals with the operations, the operations manager is still dealing with the warehouses and they in turn have spoken to their staff. I really have not have any response. Even the office assistance that we have gotten - to be honest I don't see any concerns at all from the staff and again we are trying to work in a way that I have put a line and stop anything at all. Everything is proceeding but of course once I have the commitment of the management which they have given to me there is no need to fear anybody. They don't need to fear me making any drastic changes as well as I have no fear to think that there is anybody in there who are not loyal to the operation of the Port, not necessarily to me but the operation of the Port."

Jules Vasquez
"Will Mr. Luke Espat be allowed on to this compound again?"

Arturo Tux Vasquez
"The officer in charge is here right now in this room and I have to say to you that the majority of the discussion that happened between Mr. Espat was not with me but it was with the police. Mr. Espat was not prepared to speak to me. I think he was merely giving instructions to Mr. Guerrero who was in the room. He never had any discussions with me. But I believe that at some point the officer in charge was the one who actually spoke to him and gave him the directives of how the police will handle the situation from here on. I am not in a liberty to answer to him."

Jules Vasquez
"But will he be allowed on the compound again?"

Arturo Tux Vasquez
"I understand from the police that depending on his approach he may or may not be allowed on. But the approach he had this morning I would think that the police would have to be certain that that may not be the best approach."

Jules Vasquez
"Mr. Espat has said that as soon as the police have gone he will return and retake his Port."

Arturo Tux Vasquez
"I heard him saying that on the radio yes. I won't tell you what he said in this room but I heard that on the radio."

Jules Vasquez
"So then do you all consider that as is?"

Arturo Tux Vasquez
"I said that earlier, if the legal position would change from what I am here for."

Jules Vasquez
"Assuming it won't. Contingent upon a change, he is saying that it was stolen. When the police are removed he will vindicate his right not in court but by re-taking possession of what is his."

Arturo Tux Vasquez
"What I overheard the police respond that to him was that the police right now is respecting this instrument which is one of the legal instruments that we are acting on right now. The police will remain, I guess from his comments to the police; the police have to decide for how long they will be here."

Jules Vasquez
"How long is this transitional state? What comes next? Will it remain in receivership in perpetuity? It's our sovereign national port. It's important."

Arturo Tux Vasquez
"It's a little early to say but its only my first day and I think the main thing that we need to look at right now is to make an assessment of the assets, liabilities, all the operations of the company and perhaps advise the bank as to where we believe the finances of the Port stands at the moment and as we proceed we may also think about bringing in foreign assistance to give us good evaluation; port experts. I am not a port expert as such; I am more of management and finances. We need to access the assets of this company to come up with a better idea of what we really have here. What are the values? What we own? What we owe and to be in a better position to say what is the next step."

Jules Vasquez
"We know that sometimes when companies are in receivership the next step is liquidation."

Arturo Tux Vasquez
"I this case I don't think that that is an option at all. This is a national port, so that's not what we are looking at all right now."

Jules Vasquez
"So it has to be maintain as a going concern?"

Arturo Tux Vasquez
"That is exactly what we are doing."

Superintendent Grinage told the media that the police will stay as long as there is a threat to the stability of the Port. The Port CEO representing the Luke Espat Group, Rainaldo Guerrero Senior is no longer in office. He had been there this morning, but as we understand it, he was relieved of his post and left with attorney Vanessa Retriege this afternoon.

We note also that tomorrow the waterfront workers will be having a meeting to further discuss their position.

Channel 7


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#426898 - 01/06/12 02:58 PM Re: Port of Belize goes into receivership [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline


Battle over the Port of Belize as it goes into receivership

The battle continues over the receivership of The Port of Belize, between the Belize Bank and Luke Espat. A little after seven this morning, Belize Bank receiver, Arturo Vasquez, along with police personnel, went to repossess the property. Espat, who arrived on the property around 10am, told the media that he will be fighting to take back his business. Attorney for Espat, Arthur Saldivar also addressed the media, where he explained that the document Vasquez used cannot be legally recognized as there was no court sanction attached to it. Today we caught up with Minister John Saldivar who commented on the receivership of the Port and what if any effect it will have on Belize.

Hon. John Saldivar
From the time we got wind that something was wrong, we have been in communication and I am sure the Prime Minister has also been in communication with those who were to move against the court of Belize. So during those discussions, it was always relayed to these people that the government had a specific and vital interest in what took place at the court and had asked that the government of Belize remain abreast with what was taking place.

We also asked Minsiter Saldivar if there is any possibility of the Port being nationalized.

Hon. John Saldivar
Obviously this is a private transaction and this is one private company and a private commercial bank or group that represents a bank and so that has to be respected. However, in terms of the vital port of entry for goods that come into Belize, the government remains engaged and in contact with those who remain in receivership of the company.

Meanwhile attorney Saldivar and his client Luke Espat plan to get the courts involved in hopes of resolving the matter.

PlusTV


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#427020 - 01/07/12 02:04 PM Re: Port of Belize goes into receivership [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Ashcroft Alliance (PIL) Retains Firm Hold On Port

Tonight the Port of Belize remains firmly in the hands of the Ashcroft Alliance. Management, operations and possession remains under the hand of receiver Arturo Tux Vasquez, appointed by the Ashcroft-affiliated Company, Private Investment Limited, or P-I-L, as it is called.

Operations at the Port continue un-interrupted - and all indications are that a smooth transition was effected. But it is anything but smooth for the Luke Espat Group - which maintains that the Port was stolen from its owner, a theft which he says was enforced by the Police Department. Today, the police were still there, though with a much lesser presence - we only saw a pair of officers at the gate - as opposed to - including senior officers yesterday.

Espat has sworn that he will re-take the company when the Police leave - and he swears that the Ashcroft Alliance will face a rude awakening.

How that will be effected - or through what means remained deliberately vague when we called Espat today. As we reported - according to bank documents 7news has obtained - a letter sent on Wednesday from the British Caribbean Bank to the Port of Belize and signed by Andrew Ashcroft - the son of Michael Ashcroft - discusses a thirty eight million US dollar credit facility with the Bank - that is 76 million Belize dollars.

There's also a letter dated third January from Private Investment Limited, which tells Espat he has failed to pay interest on the loan - and that the outstanding interest stands at 3.7 million Belize dollars.

One group that's watching all this very closely is the Christian Workers Union. They had a meeting with members today -a nd though only about three dozen showed up - they say their message is clear: they don't want any problems:..

Antonio Gonzalez - President CWU
"What we did this morning was to inform them about the meeting we had with Mr. Vasquez yesterday about the commitment made by Mr. Vasquez, we gave them a copy of the letter received from Mr. Vasquez dated 5th January 2012 in relation to certain commitments that there would be no changes to the status quo right now and also that he is committed to continue the dialogue concerning the association's new agreement."

James McFoy, General Secretary, CWU
"At the same time as we said earlier that we will be monitoring the situation because you know how things happen at times. Sometimes, they don't say immediate change but suddenly you see a drastic change. Then it might creep up on us, when it creep up on us it becomes enormous because we did not challenge it but we intend to challenge any changes that will affect our members."

Antonio Gonzalez
"We wish to say that not because Mr. Espat had or have these financial problems with their lenders or whatever but we had somewhat of an ongoing good relationship with the management. In fact we had an ongoing discussion about a new collective agreement on stevedores but since the change yesterday then we have to deal with the new persons who are in power right now."

Jules Vasquez
"PIL, the receivers' company, they just have one of those offices at 60 Market Square, we don't know who they are. I see Andrew Ashcroft, Michael Ashcroft's son signing the letter. Are you concern that being not necessarily a person resident in Belize they might say well the union could eat grass."

James McFoy
"Well I think we need to maybe get something from the big authority because as Mr. Vasquez mentions, he is only the appointed receiver, but we need to get something from the big boys to assure us. We also give the assurance that we will work with them. That is a mutual understanding."

Antonio Gonzalez
"As we said we met with Mr. Guiseppi and Mr. Marshalleck from the Belize Bank and we show them - made it clear that whatever changes you have if you don't consult us you will run into problems. You know we have a history of a lot of conflicts and things Jules, so we don't want that with the new management but if they don't consult the union, if they don't let the union participate in any decision making then it can lead to problems. We don't want that at this stage. We want to find common grounds so that it could move along."

Gonzalez explained that attendance at the meeting was low because the Sugar ship is in Port which has their members working.

Channel 7


Takeover of Luke’s Port; like popping a PIL

It was day two at the Port of Belize today and all indications are that the flow of business was seamless following the takeover by Private Investment Limited on Thursday. The test will be this Saturday when PBL will be clearing a Caribbean Shipping Line vessel that was scheduled to arrive today but experienced a delay. The receiver, Arturo “Tux” Vasquez says that there have been no inconveniences and that staff members are working around the clock as normal. News Five’s Isani Cayetano looks back at the roadmap of the takeover, triggered by a default of a sixty-four million dollar loan plus accruing interest by the previous owner, businessman Luke Espat.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Speculation about the imminent takeover of Port of Belize Ltd., one of few remaining assets belonging to the Luke Espat Group, began surfacing in late November of last year. While it was initially rumored that a receiver would be moving in to assume control of the struggling business questions fielded to executive chairman Lyndon Guiseppi in mid-December led to a dismissal of the notion that the Belize Bank was somehow involved in the matter.

Lyndon Guiseppi

Lyndon Guiseppi, Executive Chairman, Belize Bank [File: December 14th, 2011]

“There’s no attempt on the bank’s part to take over the Port. In fact, the bank is not a lender with the Port; the Port is not a borrower with the bank. So that is speculation, but it is a little more than speculation. It is in fact, incorrect to suggest that the bank is trying to take over the port. The Belize Bank has no loans to the Port of Belize.”

Despite the fact that Guiseppi was technically correct in his response it later came to light that a shell company, Private Investment Limited, registered at the bank’s Market Square address, was indeed appropriating PBL.

Prime Minister Barrow was also quizzed on the issue following a House Meeting a few days later. At the time the P.M. told the media that he had been in dialogue with both Espat and Guiseppi to ensure that the affairs of the port would go undisturbed should the company fall into receivership during the holiday season.

Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow [File: December 16th, 2011]

“I was concerned that nothing be done to disrupt the port activities certainly over Christmas and early into the New Year. Now I’ve also indicated to Mr. Guiseppi that if a time comes when they have to exercise their commercial rights Government certainly can’t interfere with that.”

While it was made clear that there wasn’t much that could be done by way of government intervention, on Thursday when Port of Belize Ltd. was assumed by PIL, its former owner cried foul. Luke Espat believes that the occupation of his company was deliberately facilitated by the Barrow Administration.

Luke Espat

Luke Espat, Former Owner, Port of Belize Ltd.

“I have informed the prime minister this morning that he was helpful in allowing rogues to steal my business. He said his police force was only here to keep the peace as far as he knows and I informed the senior officer of this. So as you can see the police insist on staying without a court order so I will go to the courts now to get a process going.”

According to P.M. Barrow the guarantee on the credit facility issued to Espat allows for the installation of a receiver should he default on payment. That process, the prime minister maintained, would go unimpeded.

Dean Barrow

“The loan arrangements are such that certain events can trigger the appointment of the receiver, there is no way on earth that government will seek to interfere to prevent that but, if it comes to that I said to Mr. Guiseppi, I would imagine that before you move you will get in touch with the union that represents the port workers and you will let government know, you will take the sorts of steps that can minimize the degree of disruption that a transition will inevitably cause.”

The process of changing the port’s management during receivership, says Arturo Vasquez, will be fluid. Senior officials, including Deputy C.E.O. Francine Waight, will retain their positions within the company.

Arturo Vasquez

Arturo Vasquez, Receiver, Port of Belize Ltd.

“Senior management that are in their respective positions continue to do their job. I have not taken responsibility of anybody’s position. Accountants are still dealing with the banks. The Deputy C.E.O. is still dealing with the operations. The operations manager is still dealing with the warehouses and they in turn have spoken to their staff. I really have not had any response. Even the office assistance that we have gotten to be honest I don’t see any concerns at all from the staff. Again, I guess that I did not put myself in between any management position, you know, I am here to oversee senior management the way they perform their respective duties. As when the Deputy C.E.O. joined us again I told her when she came in, it took us two minutes, you can go back to your desk and you do exactly what you have to do and we will continue to talk. You just keep updating me.”

As for the future of the Port of Belize Vasquez says the first order of business is evaluating the company’s existing assets.

Arturo Vasquez

“The main thing that we need to look at right now is to make an assessment of the assets, liabilities, all the operations of the company and perhaps advise the bank as to where we believe the port, the finances of this port stands at the moment and as we proceed we may also think about bringing in foreign assistance to give us good evaluation, port experts. I am not a port expert as such, I am more management and finances but I think we also need to look at, we need to assess the assets of this company to perhaps come out with a better idea of what we really have here, look at the values what we own and what we owe and to be in a better position to say what is the next step.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Channel 5


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