The 3,000 acres of North Ambergris Caye that was the subject of much public debate, controversy and even protests back in 2007 is now listed for sale on the Internet for more than double what the South Korean developers paid for it back in 2007. Official Central Bank reports have confirmed that the Musa administration sold the property in the Punta Azul Area to Caribbean Developers (Belize) Limited for BZ$12 million or US$6 million – now Belize Property Center has it listed at a price tag of US$13 million.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow said in his Independence Day speech Monday that the development on the 3,000 acres – a sale that Barrow had publicly opposed in 2007 – “is imminent.” However, when we did some checking, we found that property being advertised on the Internet for sale by Looey Tremblay, a Canadian real estate agent who operates a RE/MAX franchise in Belize.
On December 28, 2007, just over a month after the National Assembly of Belize approved the sale, Caribbean Developers (Belize) Limited mortgaged the 3,000 acres to the Industrial Bank of Korea as collateral for a US$13,720,000 loan.
About a year later, in January 2009, the law firm of Barrow and Williams (the law firm of Prime Minister Barrow) issued a 2-month notice for the same Korean bank, advising that the bank intends to foreclose and sell off the 3,000 acres on North Ambergris Caye on Belize’s biggest offshore island.
Formerly part of the Pinkerton Estate which the Government of Belize reacquired back in 1990 – under the pretext of making more lands available to locals – the property is said to be located 12.5 miles north of San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize District.
The company that holds the title is Caribbean Developers (Belize) Limited, which was incorporated in Belize in October 2007 with Suin Oh and Sung Hee Park of Room 202 at Hanjik Officetel in Seoul, South Korea, as business partners. Christopher Coye for Guardian Services Limited and Roy Cadle for Prudential Trust Corporation Limited signed initially as corporate subscribers.
Prudential is an affiliate of Courtenay Coye LLP (the law firm of ex-People’s United Party Minister, Eamon Courtenay, and Christopher Coye.) It retains one share while Oh retains 9,999.
(Courtenay parted ways with Musa’s Cabinet in June of 2007 and returned to his private practice, after serving as Senator and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.)
RE/MAX first issued an international press release back in July, captioned “RE/MAX goes big in Ambergris Caye Belize” – a place it described as “one of the hottest expatriate destinations in the world...[that] attracts affluent tourists, wealthy second home purchasers and well-heeled retirees” and “the ultimate resort location.”
Amandala has confirmed that the Korean bank is the party behind the RE/MAX sale and at the time of this writing, the Belize real estate agents had not been asked to withdraw the property from its list of Belizean properties for sale.
The lands now being advertised on the Internet were held as Crown Lands from 1990 to 2007. The lands were repurchased under the People’s United Party administration, and indications back then were that a portion would be earmarked for a reserve (documented in 1996 with the declaration of the Bacalar Chico’s national park designation), 2,500 acres for locals and 7,500 acres for tourism development, including an international hotel, golf courses, luxury homes, casinos, an airstrip, etc.
During 2007, investors were hot for the Ambergris Caye lands. The Musa administration faced a lot of heat over the land deal with the Koreans, as well as proposals to de-reserve part of Bachalar Chico to satisfy a request from Allen O. Cage, Jr., of the U.S. for 8,225 acres of the former Pinkerton Estate for US$25 million – a price tag that was later reduced to US$17 million, but without the deal being consummated.
There was a separate proposal in 2007 to the Belize Social Security Board from a person identified as Richard Lavellee, proposing to purchase SSB’s 3,400 acres for US$10 million. (That deal was also rejected.)
Additionally, there were reports around April/May 2007 that the Musa administration had entertained talks of a land swap of 8,000 acres with Michael Ashcroft’s Belize Bank in settlement of the debt of Universal Health Services (now Belize Healthcare Partners).
Meanwhile, locals from the island have continued to complain that they have not gotten their promised share of the Pinkerton Estate – and even the 25% cut earmarked initially was deemed as paltry.
When Amandala contacted Manuel Rodriguez, Commissioner of Lands, for information on the status of the Pinkerton Estate, he told us that he did not know much about the Estate.
Amandala tried to reach Korea’s Honorary Counsel to Belize, Lynn Young (Chief Executive Officer of the Belize Electricity Limited), to find out more about the status of the Korean investment; however, we were advised by his secretary that he is out of office until next week.