Belize Bank shaking up Luke Espat: Cruise terminal still on hold!

The Belize Bank’s foreclosure on Belizean businessman Luke Espat’s assets last week was but the latest in a number of recent bank foreclosures on several large businesses in Belize, which give silent testimony to the continuing crisis in the country’s economy.

Industry watchers are forecasting tough times ahead in the New Year. Espat’s problems with the Belize Bank might prove to be a minor hiccup for the inventive entrepreneur, whose partnership with Carnival Cruise Lines to build a modern port in the Port Loyola area of Belize City appears to have stalled.

Work on the port has been on hold since the Department of the Environment issued a stop order, for lack of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). After an investment of some US$25, the project has ground to a halt.

Agents of the Belize Bank reportedly shut down Crocland Adventure and Eco Park located at Mile 25 1⁄2 in Biscayne Village, one of his major companies which is also tied to the cruise tourism port facility.

The Reporter has learned that the bank has also served receivership papers at Espat’s headquarters building, Indeco Enterprises Limited, at No. 5 Calle Al Mar Street on the south side of the MCC Grounds.

It is believed Espat is indebted to the Belize Bank for two recent loans totalling some $3.1 million. Another of Espat’s companies, Belize Crocodiles and Reptiles Breeders Limited, which controls Crocland, also signed a debenture for $750,000 in 2008.

The bank advertised in the Sunday, November 28 newspapers that after two months, it would sell some eight properties belonging to Espat and his companies Indeco Enterprises and First National Building Society.

The advertisement, prepared by Senior Counsel, Godfrey P. Smith, from Marine Parade Chambers, listed properties in Belize City, the District, in Belmopan and on the Xaibe Road.

Luke Espat, recently appointed to the Opposition PUP Executive, declined to comment on his souring relationship with the bank, saying this was a policy advised by his attorney.

He was not so tight-lipped about the stalled port construction. He said the one thing he has learned is that you couldn’t fight government, unless you are suicidal.

Espat said former Belize Tourist Board CEO, Michael Singh had done his best to get between him and Carnival, and to some extent he had succeeded.

“We have built up the entire base platform of where the trestle will go. The entire first phase of the free zone is complete. There is US$25 million on the ground. We speak from experience Unless we have government working with you, something of this magnitude cannot go forward.”

He said the business dispute between himself and Carnival can be resolved. The port was supposed to have been finished two years ago, but since the Barrow administration came to power, Carnival has decided that it wants “out” of the project.

Government has to come to terms with us. About US$40 million more could complete the project, Espat said.

The Reporter