The Battle Over Channel 5 Continues, This Time At Appeals Court

For the past two days, attorneys for the Ashcroft Alliance and BTL have been battling it out in the Court of Appeal. This time they are fighting over ownership and control of Channel 5. The tv station was owned by BTL up until August 23, 2009, the day before Telemedia was nationalised. That’s when the board of directors – in a Sunday meeting – decided to divest BTL of Channel 5 – and then spun its ownership into three international companies: Channel Overseas Investments Limited; Thames Ventures Limited; and Katalyst Developments Limited. That represents a 10 million dollar loss to BTL, and the company – now under national ownership – says the Ashcroft Alliance directors are personally liable for the loss.

BTL won a judgment in the supreme court which the Ashcroft Alliance asked the Court of Appeal to throw out.

Arguments finished today and Michael Young, the Attorney for BTL spoke to the media:

Michael Young - Attorney for BTL

"What happened is that just before the government took over btl, the board did certain things. What had happened is that when the company was controlled by the Ashcroft group they had been financing great Belize productions which is channel 5 and they had financed it up to 5 million dollars. They had divested btl of its investment and they also wrote off the 5 million dollars that btl had financed channel 5 with what the board did is that they divested btl of its investment and they also wrote off the five million dollars that btl had financed channel 5 with including payment of their telephone bills and even their christmas party. So btl had expended ten million dollars and had nothing to show for it. That is the subject of the claim which we have put before the court. The transaction was done through a maze of companies and we had to unravel that maze. What they did, they applied to have the whole thing struck out, so they made an application to strike out the claim on that basis, and also some other bases. That application for striking out was turned down by the court below and they appealed it and this is what we have been addressing in court over the last couple of days. Ten million dollars was paid out and the company has nothing to show for it. There was some unjust enrichment in this regard and one of the big points is the minutes showed that the directors in 2009, is that they did this that channel 5 could be a voice against the government. In fact, that is in the minutes most interestingly, plus great Belize productions, the value of that company was increased and in turn the value of btl decreased."

Jules Vasquez

"What you all are seeking is that channel 5 be reinstated as an asset which was wrongfully divested?"

Michael Young

"It was part of the asset of btl and in fact, when the divestment was made, shares was issued in a company that owned btl but those shares were issued only to the Ashcroft group company. The small shareholders did not get any benefit in terms of equity from that exercise, it was just all for the Ashcroft group.”

A significant portion of the arguments center over whether the BTL Directors had legal indemnity which protects them from any liability in a case such as this. The wording of the indemnity clause they all signed was argued at length.

Eamon Courteany who appeared for the three companies explained the position to us yesterday:…

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for Channel Overseas Investments Limited

"The case before the court of appeals today arises from a claim by Belize telemedia against it's former directors, saying that they took decisions when they were directors of the company that has cost a loss to Belize telemedia and therefore, they are suing the directors for breach, for negligence and acting ultra vires. However, the directors say that there is indemnity in the articles of the company, as well a deal of indemnity which they all signed when they became directors which say; That if in the exercise of their function, lost results, the company with indemnify them. So we're arguing the matter should be struck out on the basis that the indemnity applies and there is no cause of action against the directors."

Mike Rudon, Channel 5 News

"Could you give us an idea of the amounts on the table right now?"

Eamon Courtenay

"In excess of ten million."

Mike Rudon

"This case affects the case which is currently before the CCJ, the nationalisation case?"

Eamon Courtenay

"I think it's the other way around. That case will affect this one because that case will determine who is the right owners of telemedia; Whether the nationalisation was valid and for what period. If the CCJ finds it was valid from 2009 then this case was properly brought. If they say it was not valid or it was only valid from 2011 then this case will not be properly brought. So that case is going to impact on this one rather than the reverse."

The court of appeal has reserved judgment.

Channel 7

Can BTL get back Channel 5?

The civil appeal of Channel Overseas Investments Limited, Katalyst Developments Limited, Thames Ventures Limited, Great Belize Productions Limited, and several former directors of Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) continued before the Court of Appeal Wednesday afternoon